Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Toffee Pecan Caramel Pound Cake

Toffee Pecan Caramel Pound Cake - You have to check out this cake!  Are you a fan of Pinterest?   I love Pinterest and that's where I saw the recipe for this cake.  Here's the link back to the original post.  Go over and look at her photos and I think you'll agree.   I couldn't wait to make this cake and shove it in my mouth   taste it.

It's extremely easy to mix up....




It took almost 90 minutes to bake.  My problem with Bundt pans is always getting the cakes out in one piece.  The recipe tells you to grease and flour the heck out of the pan, which I did, and it still stuck to the pan.  Most of the cake came out in one piece, but a little of the top of it stayed in the pan.  I just picked it out and slapped it back on top of the cake.... 


Then I did what I do best - covered it up and made it pretty with some sprinkled powdered sugar.  Doesn't that look nice?  You can barely tell....



Here's the link to the original recipe for the Creamy Caramel Sauce.  You do not want to omit the sauce.  I was seriously sneaking spoonfuls of the sauce and just eating the sauce.... by itself....  I'm kind of nutty that way.  I bet it would taste really good over ice cream altho I don't know if it's going to last long enough around here to actually make it on top of some ice cream.  We'll see.




The recipe calls for pouring the Caramel Sauce over the whole cake, but I was afraid that would make it mushy and kind of gross after a day or two.  So I just made the sauce and let everyone pour as much as they wanted on their individual pieces of cake.  Altho some people who shall remain nameless took way more than their fair share of the caramel sauce.  Just saying....


In the meantime, go make this cake - It's excellent!  I think I'll go eat another piece.

Linking up with....
Party in Your PJ's # 31


Friday, November 21, 2014

When Ham is not a Ham

The other day my husband brought home a most unusual gift from a friend of ours.  It was wrapped in a large garbage bag and weighed about 30 pounds.   When I opened it up, I saw this....

(google images) 
" What the heck is it," I asked.   To which he replied that it was a fresh ham.   Hmmm....  Ok.  Now, what do I do with it?

Visions of succulent pineapple/brown sugar baked ham danced around my head like little sugarplum fairies.  I remembered a recipe for baked ham that I recently pinned from my friend Dolly over at Dolly is Cooking.  Take a look at her ham - doesn't this look fantastic?

 
 
Who wouldn't want a dinner that looked like that?   Since we were leaving the next day to go on a hunting trip in Kentucky and I'd have a bunch of people at the house to feed, I figured this would be the perfect thing to cook up for dinner one night.   So off to Kentucky we went, with our ham nestled in the back seat.
 
I went to the store and bought pineapple and cloves and a nice large pan, and as I was washing the ham off, it occurred to me that I had no idea of its exact weight, nor did I have a meat thermometer at the lake house.   After looking again at Dolly's recipe and guesstimating the ham at around 30 pounds, I started to panic.  This thing was going to have to cook for like 7 hours.  What was I thinking??  I grabbed a butcher knife and hacked two large chunks of  meat off the sides, wrapped them in saran wrap and stuffed them in the freezer.   Then I had everyone at the house lift what was left of the ham and guess at its weight.  We averaged it out and decided it now weighed about 20 pounds.   Then I started firing off e-mails to Dolly asking her questions about cooking it.  Suddenly I was thinking that this fresh ham baking wasn't such a great idea.  Who was I kidding?  I had no scale to weigh it, so how was I going to guess at how long to cook it and how in the world was I going to know when it was done without a thermometer?  I really felt like an idiot.   But Dolly shot me back some links on cooking times and recipes and assured me I'd be fine.  Apparently Dolly doesn't know what a lousy cook I am in general.
 
I got up yesterday and tossed that sucker into the oven at 8 in the morning.  By 10:00 am it was starting to smell pretty good.  At 1:00 pm I decided to take the tin foil off of the pan and see what my lovely ham was looking like.  Except when I did, I was shocked and horrified to see that it was not pink and crusted over with a delectable skin.  It did not look anything like Dolly's ham.   Instead, it was brownish grey and it didn't look anything at all like a ham.  
 
I ran to my laptop and started to google uncured fresh ham and discovered that uncured ham is basically a pork roast.  Once my heart stopped pounding through my shirt I took another look at a recipe for uncured ham that Dolly had sent to me -  this one by Paula Deen.  I started to feel better but then began to second guess myself because it was fresh pork and I wanted to be sure it was cooked all the way.  Cripes.  I jumped in the truck and drove all the way to town which is about 15 miles, just to buy a meat thermometer!  When I got home I plunged it into the meat and this is what I saw.  Done, finished, cooked just past the proper internal temperature, and when I cut a slice off, I was amazed at how good it was.  Plus, it was done earlier than I had expected, so I guess it was a good thing I drove to town for that meat thermometer, huh?
 

I kept the roast wrapped in foil on the counter and started making side dishes, you know, just in case the roast didn't taste all that great.  First I whipped up 2 types of gravy, because after all, anything tastes good drowned in gravy....


Then I made cole slaw, mashed potatoes, broccoli rice casserole and green bean casserole.

 
 
When the guys finally got home from hunting and Louie sliced up that ham pork roast, we were all pleasantly surprised at how good it was.  I mean, it was fork tender and actually delicious.   And it didn't look too bad either. 
 
 
It was no Paula Deen roast, but it tasted ok....
 

Fresh Ham

(Paula Deen's roast)
 
We had fried pork with biscuits and eggs this morning and tonight we're going to have barbeque pork sandwiches on hard rolls for dinner.  All's well that ends well.  So that's my story on how a ham is really a pork roast and I learned a lot about ham and pork roast in the last 2 days.  Now I have to go buy a cured, smoked ham so I can use up the pineapple and brown sugar that I bought.  I'm not promising that my ham will look anything like Dolly's though when I'm done.
 
 
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Author Interview - David McRee

If you missed my book review on Monday on "BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide" then go here to read it.  Author David McRee stopped by to say hello and to do an interview so please read on....





You now call yourself a professional Beach Bum.  You served as a beach expert for Visitflorida.com for over 2 years providing multimedia content.  What is your writing and photography background?

My only experience with writing and photography was researching and writing my Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide and building my BeachHunter.net website. I took beach photos for the book and website. In 2007, Miles Media in Sarasota was looking for someone to create content about beaches for the new Visitflorida website. One of the editors found my website and liked my writing, so they offered me the contract position. I gained a lot of valuable experience and contacts from that assignment and got to travel to beaches all over the state, including my first trip to the Dry Tortugas.

Do you hold a regular job now or are you lucky enough to spend your days living on the beach and writing about it?

I am a Certified Public Accountant licensed to practice in Florida. I left my job at an accounting firm in 2005 to pursue my writing, however I’ve done a great deal of freelance consulting as a CPA to pay the bills and am currently rebuilding my practice since writing about beaches has never really produced a dependable full-time income. As a CPA I specialize in tax compliance and IRS problem resolution for nonprofit organizations of all kinds. I’ve also done some freelance writing and blogging for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Florida and have created content for some other beach related websites.

How many books have you written?

Well, let’s see, with regard to beaches:

·         Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide (currently available in print only)

·         Best Beach Day Trips from Orlando and Central Florida (e-book only from my website)

·         Dog Friendly Gulf Beaches of Southwest Florida (kindle book only)

·         Beach Survival Guide (e-book available on my website (free) and on Kindle (not free))

With regard to my CPA work, I’ve written a technical manual for CPAs and attorneys on resolving IRS penalty issues for nonprofit organizations.

What do you like most about writing your beach books?  Is it gathering the information, the writing, the photography, the editing?

I enjoy it all, but mostly I enjoy discovering new beaches or new things about a beach I’m already familiar with. I also get a huge amount of satisfaction from all the email I get from people telling me how much my books and website have helped them find the right beach and plan their vacation. I have individuals who tell me they have been using my website and books for many years.

What do you like the least about writing a book?

My least favorite part of writing is probably the last few editing and fact-checking efforts where I’m really splitting hairs in the way I word something or where I’m having trouble nailing down an important detail about beach access at a particular location. Also, making sure the table of contents and the index are correct and the layout is readable and all the photos are positioned correctly is tedious. I use Microsoft Word, which is not really what a professional book layout person would use.

Your books are available in both print and E book.  Do you prefer one medium over the other?

Just from a personal perspective I prefer printed books.  Now that I’ve discovered the Createspace publishing platform I no longer have to stock books and mail them out. Createspace handles printing and on-demand delivery. From a business (profit) perspective, I prefer to sell e-books. They are easier to update and have a much higher profit margin. And I can use color photos or illustrations if the book is not too long.

How do Florida’s east and west coast beaches differ?

I could easily write an entire article on this. The Gulf beaches are calmer, have more shells and fewer jellyfish (except the panhandle has lots of jellies), and the Gulf barrier islands are smaller and narrower. The panhandle and Atlantic coast beaches tend to have larger dunes and the buildings and houses are not packed quite as tightly as on the Gulf side, with some notable exceptions. The Gulf of Mexico water temperature gets warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever found on a beach?

I found a clay smoking pipe on Caspersen Beach, near Venice. It looks much like a pipe that Native Americans or Caribbean Islanders might have smoked hundreds of years ago, but probably isn’t that old. Perhaps it fell from a passing cargo ship. Who knows? It was a great find!

I know that water clarity changes on a daily basis, but which beaches typically have the clearest water for snorkeling/shelling?

I’ve actually written a blog post on this and it happens to be the most popular article on my blog at BlogTheBeach.com. Panhandle beaches from Pensacola to around St. Joseph Peninsula generally have very clear water. Beaches from Anna Maria to Naples often have very fairly clear water, especially during May and June before the rains start, but clarity varies and can be inconsistent. On the Atlantic side, the beaches from about Palm Beach south to Miami usually have very good water clarity.

What do you personally look for in a beach in order for it to qualify as great beach?  Is it the shelling, the snorkeling, sitting in the sand, watching sunsets, the parking?

It depends on what I’m in the mood for mainly. But overall, it’s the vibe. I prefer quiet neighborhood beaches where I don’t have to fight traffic and I can just pull into a shady parking spot right next to the beach access trail. I like beaches where there is no crowd—just a few locals and vacationers staying nearby--and where I can see plenty of greenery and no high rise buildings. Clear water is a plus. I don’t care if the sand is white or brown or if there are lots of shells. Late afternoon and sunset are my favorite times at the beach. I don’t want to smell cigarette or cigar smoke, and I don’t want to hear traffic noise or loud music.

Describe your best beach day.

My best beach days actually happened when I was a teenager. I spent many wonderful days surfing with good friends on Anna Maria Island. I’ll never forget those times and those friends. More recently, my best beach day is harder to pinpoint, but my first trip to Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach and Captiva, --before Hurricane Charley blew over all the Australian Pines--was probably one of the most magical beach and island exploration days I can remember. My first trip to the beaches of Cayo Costa aboard the Tropic Star rates pretty highly as well.

So going to the beach is technically your “job.”  What do you like to do for fun?

I still go to the beach for fun. I enjoy kayaking as well. I’ve been a life-long birder and also enjoy working in my vegetable garden almost every day. For indoor activities, I’ve been an avid Argentine Tango dancer for over 15 years and I still pursue that passion as my schedule allows.

What advice would you give aspiring travel writers?

Oddly perhaps, I don’t really think of myself as a travel writer but I guess that would be a conventional description of my beach related writing. My advice would be to pick some angle or niche that you can specialize in. Become the “go-to” expert in that niche. Don’t be afraid to start off by self-publishing. Learn to take good photographs and to use social media. Create a lot of content. The biggest challenge in travel writing is that so many travel writers are willing to work for free or nearly free. That’s some pretty tough competition. Don’t undervalue yourself. Learn to write persuasive sales copy. Don’t quit your day job too soon.

I'd like to thank David for his interview and for giving me the opportunity to review his book "BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide."  It's available on his website and also at Amazon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review - BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide


BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide




The Florida Gulf Beaches Guide is filled with 286 pages of beach goodness.  It covers 120 beaches on the Gulf coast from Tarpon Springs to Marco Island and includes 21 maps as well as 120 black and white photos.  It's based on author David McRee's personal experiences and since he was born in Florida, has lived there his whole life and has personally visited each and every one of these beaches, well, he knows what he's talking about!

Everything inside the book is well documented and organized with great attention to detail.  All the beaches are numbered so they correspond to one of the maps.  One of my favorite features of the book is that David included the GPS co-ordinates and directions to each beach.  As an out-of-towner this feature is a huge plus for me and makes navigation a breeze.  Every beach has oodles of information such as....
  • Pets
  • Disabled access
  • Restrooms
  • Food and drink
  • Alcohol
  • Shelling
  • Lifeguards
  • Camping
My location of choice has always been Sanibel Island and I usually don't venture off the island when I'm there.  Florida's Gulf Coast has so many beaches to choose from and frankly it was overwhelming trying to decide where to go, much less figuring out how to get there.  But after reading this book, I've already got a list going of new beaches I want to try.  David has literally taken the guesswork out of trying to decide which beaches may offer the features I'm looking for.  This is essential when you've only got a few days of vacation and want to maximize your beach experience.

Another thing I really liked about BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide is the treasure trove of different activities that David suggests.  For example....
  • Kayaking to the Barrier Islands such as Anclote Key
  • Learning the history of Caladesi Island
  • Enjoying the sunsets at Pier 60 along with artists, crafts people, musicians and street performers
  • Visiting the Clearwater Aquarium
  • Check out the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
  • Stroll along Long Pier
  • Visit Fort Desoto for the drum roll
  • How to reach and explore Cayo Costa Island
David also steers his readers in the direction of beaches where they may have a good chance of finding some nice shells, hunting for sharks teeth, where to snorkel in clear water and where to mosey along a boardwalk.  Get the book and you'll find out too!

In fact - check out this video and David will tell you exactly what you will get in his book.  If you're a fan of Florida beaches then this book is for you.  Now is the perfect time to order it as a gift for someone special.

It's available on his website,  his blog, and also at Amazon.  Right now David is offering a free copy of his Beach Survival Guide e-book.  Go ahead and download it here.

Visit his FB page here.

Be sure to come back on Thursday when David stops by to do an author interview.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Estate Sale Finds 11-17-14

I haven't been out to any garage or estate sales in awhile and I was itching to paw through some junk.  Sometimes I'm like a junkie and I need my garbage fix.  So I did the next best thing - hit up a thrift store.  I was actually looking for an old cookie sheet for a project I want to make, and as I was digging around on the kitchen item shelves, I found this shoved way in the back, behind some crappy looking dishes.  I actually think somebody was trying to hide this and come back for it later because there was a whole shelf of just Pyrex bowls and this should have been sitting with that stuff.  Anyways, its a Pyrex Butterprint 502 and a 503, both in mint condition with the lids.  I did a happy dance.


On Saturday there was one lone estate sale listed and I dragged Louie and Chablis out to take a look.   They breezed through the house in about 10 minutes because the company running the sale had everything priced SO high that I was in shock.   In fact, hardly anybody walking through the house was buying anything.   I went down into the basement and found this old Ovaltine tin sitting in a corner.  It was really dirty and rusty and it's missing its lid.  It also didn't have a price tag on it.  I took it upstairs and I was actually going to offer the lady $ 3.00 for it and Louie hissed at me that it was a piece of crap and to only offer a buck.  So I went up to the table and showed it to the woman and said "It doesn't have a price tag, it's super rusty and it's missing its lid. Will you take a dollar for it?"  She hemmed and hawed and then reluctantly said, "Oh, all right."  I quickly paid and left.


Even cleaned up it's in pretty rough shape but I just thought it looked cool and I'll use it in my craft room to store supplies.  I found one similar to it on EBAY and it says it's from the 1920's, which it may or may not be, but I still like it.


And that was it for the past few weeks.  It looks like Goodwill and The Salvation Army stores will be getting my business for awhile.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Using my Estate Sale Finds

Some of the things I buy at Estate sales get repurposed, some get sold in my Etsy shop and some I
re-use at home.  Three items that I bought this year were reused in my kitchen.

When I found the Lance glass jar here it was missing its glass lid.  I offered them $ 2.00 for the jar and they took it so I brought it home and now it holds the cups for our Keurig coffee maker.  Not having the lid isn't an issue at all and I love the jar.


Louie bought me this vintage wooden crayon box here and I used it to hold vintage creamer and sugar jars....


I fell in love with the colors and graphics of this old Handy Andy Tool box that I found here.   It sat in my office for about 2 weeks before I had a brain storm on what to do with it.  All I did was wash it good and I left it in its rusty, antique state.  When Louie comes home he always throws his wallet, gas receipts, change and cell phone onto my kitchen counter, which drives.... me ....  nuts.  I put the tool box on the counter, plugged his cell phone charger into the outlet above it and now everything gets tossed into the tool box instead of spread out on the counter where I am making a gourmet meal  attempting to cook something that will resemble dinner.


It's a good compromise because everything is still plopped where he likes it, but everything is contained in one spot which is how I like it.  LOL.  But the best part is when he actually said to me, "I really like using that tool box to hold all my stuff."  Win!!


I really like finding old goodies at estate sales and figuring out ways to re-use them, don't you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

From Failure to Fab

Do you remember the repurposed cutting board failure I had a couple of weeks ago?  Here's a picture of the sad finished product.  Jump back here if you want to read the original story.

 

Well, I pondered the problem, asked for advice and searched Pinterest.   The first thing I tried was to get an ink pad refill tube.  I dabbed liquid ink onto the surface of the Bacon Press and tried pushing it down onto the board, but that didn't do anything except get my hands full of ink.  I was happy that the ink easily washed off of the Bacon Press....
 
 


So on to plan B.  I ran over to the office supply store and looked for some carbon/tracing paper.  When I couldn't find it, I asked one of the store employees if they sold carbon paper.  He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.  Cripes, did that make me feel old - does anyone else remember carbon paper???  You know, from back in the day when we used typewriters and wanted to make multiple copies.   Anyway, after a little searching, we came up with a box of carbon paper....
 
 
I went back home with my precious box of carbon paper.  I'm thinking that 25 sheets of it will probably last me the rest of my life.  I got out a piece of parchment paper and taped it to the front of the bacon press and took a pencil and lightly scribbled across it so I could transfer the outline of the bacon press onto the paper.  Then I laid the transfer onto the cutting board and slipped a piece of carbon paper between the parchment and the board.... 
 

Next I took a pen and just traced the outline of the transfer onto the board.  I was actually feeling pretty pleased with myself at this point if you want to know the truth.

 
Finally, I took my wood burning tool and just burned along the pen lines....
 





Once I finished wood burning the board, I did a light staining with coffee grounds, cleaned it up and then coated the entire board with some coconut oil.   Here it is, all finished and ready to use or display!  Honestly, I was pretty happy that it all worked out.  Don't you just love it when you can turn a former failure into a fun finished product?

 
 

 
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