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Sunday, April 21, 2013

“Ground Hog Day” Ends on Day 33! Hallelujah!



Yesterday, after 33 days with a dead diesel engine (click here for more about what happened), it finally ROARED back to life.  Today, at long last, we head Northwest.

What was the problem? 

Wayne summarized it on Cruiser’s Forum (click here for that – look on page 6, response #77). Watch this blog for a future post -- my non-technical summary of the mild temporary insanity that ensued in the interim.

For now, this is short and sweet as it’s time to move on!

PS Thanks for all those good vibes sent by friends and family.  Maybe it just took a little longer for our engine to hear it across the miles.  And thank you, Joseph, for your faith & persistence.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eating Oxtails in the Rain

Oxtails, from the Solid Gold roach coach.

“What’s that?” my longtime best friend Anna asked about the unidentified object in her soup.

“A heart,” Dad answered.

Dad’s home-made soups were hearty and flavorful, due in part to his unwillingness to waste flavorful pieces and parts – necks, backs, livers, hearts and more.  Anna, fortunately, is one of my few friends who I knew would not be horrified.  After all, I loved her familily’s menudo – tripe (stomach) soup.  “It’s good,” Anna murmured, taking another spoonful.

Wayne, my wonderful husband, while game and getting better all the time, is far less adventurous about what he eats.

That’s why I love “roach coaches.”  Only here in the Caribbean, they don’t come to to you, you go to them.  They serve up hefty portions of artery-hardeneing rib-sticking, tounge-smacking hands-on “I need two napkins” stuff I’d never have know-how, ingredients, or time to slow-cook up on the boat.  And like many of Dad’s mysterious meals, you never know what you’ll find.
Solid Gold is the roach coach just outside
St. Thomas’ main Post Office.

Since starting off in St. Lucia, here’s a few local Caribbean delights I’ve sampled and enjoyed
  • Salt fish
  • Chicken roti (curried with lots of little neck bones)
  • Pepper pot
  • Corned pork
  • Stewed chicken
  • Dukana (sweet potato, coconut and sugar)
  • Cow heel soup
  • Oxtails


See the wheels on Solid Gold?  This is one roach coach
that’s not going anywhere!
I admit, when ordering today’s Oxtail, it’s ‘cause I chickened out on the alternatives.  They were fried fish (not much for fried food) and boiled fish. “It’s a fish head, you know,” cautioned the server, prompting me to shift over to the oxtail, a dish I’d been try for a while.  I just wasn’t ready to have a fish eye staring back up at me.  Plus, even the small servings are so generous, I planned on bringing some back to Wayne, who sure as hell would be completely grossed out by a fish head.

When I was a kid, my Gram used to chuckle when asked what chicken part was her favorite to eat.  “I like the part the crosses the fence last.”  Gram, too proper to call it by name, loved chicken butt, a greasy-fatty little bit. 

As I sat sucking my oxtails off the bone and slurping “provisions” (dirty rice, baked sweet potato, and veg) in the misty rain outside Kmart, I thought, Gram and Dad would be proud.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

No, DON’T Wanna Imagine That!


No this is not our boat, but it’s wrecked near our emergency anchorage just
off -- rather than literally ON Water Island.  It’s a potent reminder our emergency
anchorage could’ve been a lot worse.

Like Despair.com’s “Cure for Hope” demotivational posters (click here for one of my favorites), just when you think it couldn’t get worse, they gleefully remind you  that indeed it can!

To wit, ‘Motivational posters don't work. But our legendary demotivational posters don't work even BETTER! ‘ – Despair, Inc

We may not be able to control all the circumstances that invite frustration, but we can control our attitude and develop good contingency plans.

At this moment, we can really relate to Despair.com’s messages. Mostly, they help us laugh while we work things out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another “New” US Food Favorite Abroad


Ziyad and other Middle Eastern products at Pueblo.
The year was 1966; the place South side Chicago, in a small retail outlet; Ziyad Brothers (then Syrian Bakery & Grocery Inc) humbly began peddling fresh-baked pita bread and Middle Eastern eats.

Fast forward 47 years to 2013, West Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States (US) Virgin Islands.  Wandering through mainstream Pueblo Market, before me beckoned a shelf bursting with a vast array of intriguing Middle Eastern foods. Ziyad joins the ranks of Badia and Goya (click here for more about that), delightful decades-old US-originated ethnic food companies as well as the oldest US lager (click here to learn what that is) I first discovered in the Caribbean.

Got a few more of these stashed for future
Caribbean hummus batches.
Back in the days when my kitchen was a kitchen and not a galley, my large Cuisinart food processor got a regular workout whipping up home-made hummus (favorite recipe follows).  Selling it when we pared down to the barest essentials commercial airline luggage was a sad “letting go” day for me.  Sure, we picked up a little Proctor Silex mini-food processor for a cool $16 in Philipsburg St Maarten, but I had to make hummus in tiny batches.

Enter Ziyad’s Plain “Hummos,” the perfect base at a price less than the Caribbean price of the chick peas (aka garbanzo beans) to make it.  Best of all, its texture is silkier than anything I’ve ever made and the tahini’s already in it.   That was worth stocking up on (and I did)!  Here’s my Ziyad-based…
“Caribbean” hummus.  1 $1.99 can of Ziyad yields about
1 ½ cups hummus, more than 1 can of chick peas.  The lime
juice makes a good stand-in for lemon.

“Caribbean” Hummus

ingredients
  • 1 14 oz can Ziyad’s Plain “Hummos”
  • 1 T olive oil (preferably extra virgin for more flavor)
  • ¼ c lemon juice (adjust to your taste – mine’s lemony!)
  • ¾ t fresh garlic, finely minced (adjust as needed – some garlic’s stronger than others)
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • salt to taste (use a light hand, add more as needed)
directions
  • Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, ideally one that doubles as a serving bowl
  • Stir until well mixed (I like to use a frosting spreader to stir & neaten up the mixing bowl before serving)
  • Serve with pita (if you can find it!), crackers, or your favorite dipping veggies, ex. sliced cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, broccoli.  Makes a great spread for tuna sandwiches.


You may want to also check out Ziyad’s website, www.ziyad.com for recipes.  They’re a bit rough to follow, but offer some great ideas for spicing up your cooking portfolio.

Landlubber’s Sun Dried Tomato Hummus 

ingredients
  • 2 cans (~14 oz @) chick peas 
  • 1/2 c chick pea "broth" (juice from can)
  • 2-3 T tahini (sesame butter) -- alternative -- add up to ¼ c pine nut$$$ instead
  • 1/2 c lemon juice (this is a LOT more than most hummus recipes call for)
  • 1 t  olive oil (or more)
  • 1 1/2 -2 t fresh garlic, finely minced (garlic presses work great for this)
  • 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes (if in oil then skip the olive oil, if just dried, add the oil as the recipe calls for)
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste


directions
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor bowl or blender. 
  • Blend until creamy.
  • Serve with pita or your favorite dipping veggies, ex. sliced cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, broccoli
  • For extra show, decorate the bowl with Kalamata olives, or edible blossoms like violas or nasturtiums or fringe the bowl in cucumber rounds

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defrosting? InvoluntarySpring Cleaning


Just a few of the contents of the fridge.  Note the red step stool
is still required for me to reach the fridge bottom.

Something was rotten on Journey; more than our engine failure which is still keeping us tethered just off Water Island (click here for more about that), a wicked little dinghy hop across Gregerie Channel from St. Thomas. 

It’s not a good thing when opening your “fridge” smells – or rather, make that stinks – like a particularly fragrant burp.  Ours did.  Ugh!  To add insult to injury, it was rainy off and on which meant lots of closed hatches and little circulation. Thus, our fridge malordorously enveloped us like an unpleasant guest with B.O.

Olfactory detective work was required, rarely a pleasure when called upon by necessity – it is far more often a curse than a blessing to be endowed with a particularly sensitive sniffer. 

I took everthing out of our fridge and could tell none of those items were the culprit.  But the fridge stil reeked. Our fridge is a few inches shy of a yard, about 10” deeper than the length between my shoulder and my fingertips.

Looking down, I saw the plastic baskets we placed in the bottom of the fridge to render its contents “reachable” were mired in disgustingly gray, murky water.  I’d discovered the source of our problem.  Reluctantly, I called Wayne’s attention to it.

Recently, Wayne discovered and inserted a plug that minimizes cool air escaping our fridge, to help us conserve our energy – fridges are electricy hogs.  Our poorly insulated fridge is particularly greedy and by far the biggest suck on our battery.  Wayne realized then, when he defrosted our freezer, he left the plug in.  That meant in addition to the water, whatever else got defrosted with the ice, “scented” the water which had no place to go besides the bottom of our fridge.  Pee-you!

Trooper that he is, Wayne not only drained the fridge by puling the plug, he cleaned up the “water” that stagnated.   I love my husband for his consistent willingless to tackle these nasty jobs with grace.

My job was to thoroughly disinfect the empty, drained fridge and all of the contents going back into it.

Overlapping with the pantry moth erradification efforts (click here to read about that), it was a long couple of days of cleaning.

While I do clean up as I go along, I will never be accused of being a Martha Stewart when it comes to cleaning. I just don’t like it.  But when there’s a good reason for a deep clean, I step up to the plate and do it with diligence.

For those of you new to defrosting your galley freezer, if you don’t like spring cleaning, don’t forget to pull that plug when you’re defrosting!

With clean pantries and a clean fridge, I’m hope the nastiest part of my galley cleaning is done for a while.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Walking On Water, Bikini Babes, & Buff Boys


Everyone looked happy.  What’s not to like on picture-perfect
Honeymoon Beach Spring Break party?

Spring Break Rocks Honeymoon Beach near St. Thomas

Little did we know… we just came for the community potluck / fish fry (click here to read about that), not that any of us were complaining about the eye candy in full and glorious abundance.

Beaching our dinghy at Honeymoon Beach, we entered a panarorama from a G/ PG-rated version of Animal House.  The beach undulated with hundreds of bikini or brief clad twenty-somethings, reveling in sunshine, powder-soft sand and plenty of social lubricant. This was our first-ever up close and personal exposure to Spring Break.
The party spilled out into the water.
Honeymoon Beach’s community hall was hoppin.’

I graduated college debt-free, working all but one semester and paying for tuition and books myself.  I lived at home; wild Spring Break parties were not something a.o.k. under Mom and Dad’s watchful eye.  Mostly, though, it just wasn’t how I’d consider spending my money, much less more money than I had.

The closest Wayne came to the college party scene was a phone call from the local frat upon his PSU enrollment.  As the brother extolled the virtues of ice cream socials and the benefits of fraternity support, Wayne said, “You do know I’m 39, right?”  The sales pitch ended abruptly with a “click;” Wayne was not the one who hung up.  “Clearly, they didn’t give me the opportunity to point out all the advantages an older brother could offer.  I wouldn’t mind going to parties with 19-year old sorority girls!”

A DJ-driven technopop dance beat throbbed across the beach, drowning out the live band beside Joe’s Beach Bar.  The live bands was crooning golden oldies from the 60s and 70s to a much smaller and far more sedate crowd, also happily dancing the day away.


Our friends, Michael and Colleen from Goldilocks
prove they can keep up with the best of ‘em.
Wayne toasts to that with Michael & Colleen.
Even I got into the fun!  Who says 50-something’s too late?



Two JetPack water walkers added to the entertainment; if you’re not sure what they are, click here to learn more about these hot, spendy new Jetsons-Meet-Jetskis toys.

As day wore on, the scene shifted from G to PG, with a little more dirty dancing, and girl-on-girl grinding.  Still, for the most part, I’ve seen more risqué action in some animated family flicks.

We took it in, swayed to the music, waded in the warm clear water.

We watched the dinghy lines, bobbing across the beach, high enough to be a tripwire, an effective sobriety test.  Surprisingly, no one tripped.

Spring Break or not, Honeymoon Beach still strikes me as more Leave It to Beaver or Mayberry RFD than Animal House after all.  Kinda nice; even my parents would've been okay with it.
The sun set, and the show went on… iPods, cam phones,
video recorders and digital cameras were rolling.

These JetPack waterwalkers made it all
look so easy… for hours.  Surely, they were pros
as most folks don’t get a lot of playtime
with $100K aqua toys.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fabulous Free Fish “Fry”


One of many baskets of fish Destiny brought in for the feast.
Beautiful, isn’t it?

Once a month or so, Destiny cruises into Honeymoon Bay to generously share a substantial chunk of its cargo with locals and visitors in the know – hundreds of pounds of high quality fish.  On a Sunday eve, they BBQ it up.  All they ask is that those who take, also bring a dish for 6 to the potluck buffet.

Doing my part for the two of us, I brought the perennial picnic potluck favorite, deviled eggs (bit of a challenge with that) and cornbread (recipe follows).
Prepping the fish for the BBQ.

Destiny and their friends BBQed and served up 300 pounds of gorgeous red tuna, cut in hefty steaks.  Delicious and cooked to perfection.  Amazingly, there was leftover tuna!  Amazing because this feast coincided with Spring Break, and normally sleepy Honeymoon Beach was pulsating with hordes of 20-somethings whooping it up (more on that in a future post).


I wish my container at hand was bigger than the 2-cupper tupper for my deviled egg filling (learned the hard way to fill them where they’re being served rather than attempt transporting them in our dinghy).  Still we enjoyed a couple delicious meals from Destiny’s tuna leftovers.  What a treat!

Did I mention a mean sushi?  Tasted even better than it looked.


Cornbread

from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics -- one of only 4 cookbooks I brought aboard (not counting my own personal cookbook).  There’s a more custard-y cornbread I make when there’s easy access to lots of ingredients; this time I settle for simplicity and speed.  It’s still pretty darned good.

Ingredients

1 c cornmeal
1 c whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour(1)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 c vegetable oil (2)
1/4 - 1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 c plain nonfat yogurt or buttermilk(3)

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 F.  Butter a 9 inch or 7 x 11 baking pan.
  • Sift the dry ingredients except the sugar in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the wet ingredients and sugar in another bowl.
  • Add the wet to the dry, taking care not to overmix(4)
  • Spread the batter into the baking dish and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


(1) I use regular white flour
(2)  I use extra virgin olive oil – gives the bread a full, earthy flavor
(3) I used nonfat Greek yogurt – if that’s not available, I use plain yogurt
(4) I use a rubber frosting spreader for this.  Super efficient for that and cleaning the bowl after, too!
This is more typical of what Honeymoon Beach looks like.
If you’re ever in St. Thomas, and looking for a small, peaceful, friendly slice of paradise, take the ferry from Crown Bay Marina to Honeymoon Beach.  Fish fry or not, it’s worth checking out.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Clogged Shower Sump. Egg-Streme Measures Required


Wayne’s even more delicious than my
deviled eggs; his cute hiked-up hinny
got my attention.

Overly proud of myself for recognizing before I started cooking I could use seawater for boiling -- a rare event -- I got distracted (not a rare event, admittedly).  Bad timing; I was in the midst of hard boiling eggs.

To tell this story, I need to mention the two basic techniques for hard boiling.  One is you boil them for a while.  The other is you boil them briefly, then let them sit a while.  In both cases, you drain after, then add cool water to stop the cooking, and not scald your fingers as you attempt to free the egg from its shell.

What you don’t do is boil them for a short period of time and also drain their hot cooking water.  I realized that as I watched the water go down the galley sink.  Arg!

What clever solution would keep the eggs cooking so my devliled eggs were still viable? 
Clogged shower sump pump.  A view
Wayne’s all too familiar with.

I slapped the lid back on the cooking pan, and since Wayne had the cabin floor torn apart and his derriere hiked up in the process of draining our clogged shower sump pump, grabbing the towels in the v-berth on the other side iof him was out.  Ummm, you might make some well educated guesses on the source of my distraction;).

Looked silly, but the best quick solution I could come up with to
 keep the heat in to continue cooking their eggs after their
boiling water was drained too early.
Anyhow, I padded the pan with potholders, my dishwashing towel and a pair of pillows.

It worked.

They were still some pretty cobby looking hard boiled eggs, but like the strategic placement of the prettiest produce up front, I knew how to slice those eggs to their best advantage.  Once they were filled, no one would notice.  Best of all, they’re one-gulp foods, rarely inspected.

In fact, all 24 deviled egg halves were gone well before we got to our fish fry potluck buffet line servings, and we weren’t very far in line.


Besides, going to an event gone wild at the tail end of Spring break, my develied eggs were no match for hordes of sunny-side up and fried twenty-somethings.  But that’s another post.
Not my best peeling job.

Yolks were a touch overcooked.  Some
had a slight green coating at the
yolks edge; if they were perfect they
would be 100% yellow globes.

Deviled eggs are such a forgiving recipe.


For those of you who like deviled eggs, here’s my mayonnaise-free recipe (click here for more about the first time I made deviled eggs sailing in Desolation Sound, Canada, British Columbia)

Dana’s Deviled Eggs 

ingredients
12 eggs, hard boiled and shelled*
1 c nonfat plain yogurt, preferably Greek, drained (you may want less… start with ½ c)
2 T lemon juice (adjust to your taste – start with 1 T)
1 ½ t Dijon mustard (or less -- alt. ¼ t mustard powder)
¼ t garlic powder (adjust to your taste – I tend to add more)
¼ t onion powder (adjust to your taste – I tend to add more)
1/8 t salt
1/8 t pepper (adjust to your taste – I tend to add more)
1 t Spike seasoning (optional -- adjust to taste)
2 dashes Worchestershire sauce (optional)
2 T green, pitted olives, with or without pimento, chopped OR
2 T chopped pickles, dill or sweet (I prefer dill)
paprika, preferably smoked

directions

prep the eggs
  • carefully split each hard boiled egg lengthwise**
  • gently pop the yolks into a bowl that holds at least 2 cups
  • set the egg whites into a serving tray
prep the filling
  • to the egg yolks, add all the remaining ingredients except the olives or pickles and paprika
  • using a fork or frosting spreader, mix thoroughly until light and creamy and ingredients well distributed
  • add the olives or pickles and stir them in
  • taste; adjust seasonings to your taste
fill the eggs
  • using a fork, spoon or small frosting spreader, pile the filling generously into and above each egg’s hollow (usually, there’s a little left over anyway – cook’s reward --enjoy!)
  • sprinkle each yolk fill with a light dusting of paprika, for color


*my preferred method for hard boiling: 
bring eggs to room temperature
place in pan with plenty of room to move – I pinch it a bit using my 10” wide 2 ½” deep skillet for 1 dozen medium-sized eggs (less water = less time to boil)
cover in cool or cold water – clean seawater is excellent
bring to boil
boil 2 minutes
turn water off
leave eggs in pan with hot water for 20 minutes
after 20 minutes, drain and cover with cool water
carefully remove hard-boiled eggs from shell while still in the “cool” water

**using a sharp, unserrated knife, like a meat carving knife, works best for me

Friday, April 12, 2013

“Macys” of the USVI & Internet HotSpot


One of two Big K’s on St. Thomas.  They were a
major shopping center presence on
St. Croix as well.

Goggle-eyed, we wandered through the two-story Kmart in St. Thomas.  It’d been 7 months since we’d shopped stateside.  We were in culture shock – from our own culture! 

“Oooh!  Look at all that shiny stuff!  Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!”  Fitted sheets.  Gum.  Sunflower seeds.  An odd assortment of non-essential stuff.  We spent over an hour shopping there, and Wayne is allergic to shopping.
Sandra Lee’s spiffy designer kitchenware at Kmart St Thomas.


Sure, in the Pacific NW we might pop into a “Tar  -- jhay” aka “Target” to buy basics, I might meander Macys if looking for fancy frocks on rare occasion.\
We never expected Kmart, bastion of near-abandoned shopping centers back home, could be so, well, hip. Hot tv divas’ Paula Deen (pots and pans) and SandraLees (designer kitchen utensils etc) spendy products adorned Kmart’s neatly arrayed shelves

Paula Dean’s Signature Collection at Kmart
St. Thomas; $34.99 for one square griddle
pan.  Ouch.  I was tempted, but not at that price.
Outside, dozens of smart phone tapping, netbook noting, iPad pinging and laptop loving locals sprawled, lapping up the big K’s free WiFi as eagerly as a thirsty dog laps water on a hot day.

Who knew? The Big K…  “Tar  -- jhay” of the Caribbean.  There is no Macy’s here.  You can’t buy Goya’s mixed veg on sale for 99 cents in Macy’s stateside and I’ve no need for fancy frocks these days.


Just a small subsection of the usual dozens of Big K
WiFi surfers scattered about St. Thomas’
Lockhart Shopping Center square.