Biscuits on the Grill

Little Tom visited this past week – working in Orlando – and we got together a couple of times. On Saturday Tom, Tina, and Olivia too Nancy to a movie in Daytona while Little Tom and I put another leg on the brewery pub tour. This time we started at Hidden Treasure in Port Orange and finished at the Deck Down Under in Daytona Beach Shores where we hooked up with the movie crowd for dinner. Since we’re at opposite sides of the political spectrum, it’s really fun to combine a pint of Ponce Inlet Blonde with some verbal sparing. He’s young so I forgive his misguided views.
Finished off two more Blue Apron meals; a shrimp/ fusilli dish and a steak and potato combination. Both were excellent and we pulled them off without a hitch.

My neighbor George is back in the hospital with several issues. He contracted pneumonia, has gall stones, and some, as yet unidentified, blood infection. He thinks the pneumonia came from mowing his yard during a serious rain storm on Saturday. It was the next evening that he started running a fairly high fever and it went downhill from there, ending with a trip to the emergency Sunday night. Apparently the ER doc was prodding around and found the gall bladder problem – probably that will be coming out but no decision as of Monday PM. The blood infection won’t be pinpointed until a culture that takes 48-72 hours is completed. All this is a precursor to a heart valve replacement procedure that was scheduled for next month. Update – he’s home, earlier than expected. Pneumonia cured, no blood issues found, and no immediate action on the stones.

Thursday will be the last tomato sauce production for this season. My guess is we’ll get 10-12 quarts and an eggplant parmigian meal. I don’t know what the final count will be in the freezer but wouldn’t be surprised if it approached 10 gallons. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it but we have lots of company and they often request the full Italian treatment and there will be no more additions until perhaps December or, weather factors considered, or June 2018.

Pulled off a culinary high on the Holland, combining grilled pork chops with a Blue Apron sweet potato recipe and a new recipe for buttermilk biscuits. Timing was such that I put on the wedge cut potatoes and pork chops for 12 minutes, then turned the chops and put in the biscuits for a final 12 minutes. Came out perfect. I had never done biscuits before on the grill but the recipe called for a 400 degree oven and that’s Holland territory. Nancy got the biscuit recipe from an old southern gal she plays bridge with.

Blue Apron Returns

Good news, bad news. Got the truck back and it runs just fine. I guess they do need a tune up now and then. This one was complete – plugs, distributor cap, plug wiring – in essence the whole electrical system. The brakes are now good – they had been pulling severely to the right which I attributed to the very wet weather we’ve had but turned out to be a mechanical break down. New fuel and air filters and an oil change. Does that sound like $550?

Nancy’s visit to the eye doc this week brought some not so good news. She is now “legally blind”. Although, to be honest, I haven’t noticed any changes in the past few months and Nancy says the same. But the technical aspects say differently. The doc gave us contact info for the Volusia County Center for the Visually Impaired and suggested we get the process started. We drove over yesterday (Daytona) and met with a counselor to kick things off. That basically triggers them to get on it and assign a case worker. They have to contact the doc and get all the paperwork squared away which will probably take 3-4 weeks. At that point we get scheduled to attend any appropriate classes – which could even be here at our house. We learned a few interesting things just from the brief session and no doubt will pick up quite a bit after she’s actually approved. For example – she should get one of the “feared and dreaded” white canes. That’s not for finding things but to alert people around her that her vision is impaired. The rule is that she always has the right of way if she has the cane. They checked her for level of magnification required to read and indicated the program has sight aids that will be beneficial to her including training on use of an I-phone or I-pad, which, according to them, are very user friendly for the visually impaired. All in all Nancy was ok with the whole process and the people she met.

The end of the tomato season is in sight. We’ve had so much rain in the past few weeks that the plants are literally rotting. We certainly got a load of sauce out of this season and can probably squeeze out two more large pots – not counting today’s batch. Also cleaning up on green beans. The plants look good but not producing new blossoms. I did plant some quite a bit later and those are just starting so we should still be picking beans for a while if the plants can survive the heat and humidity. And no more greens. The last to give it up was the collards. I’ll miss having the greens for smoothies but maybe the New Zealand spinach will come back.

I thought the Chako’s were gifted to cover both my birthday and father’s day so I was really surprised to get a 3 meal package from Blue Apron courtesy of Tom and Tina. Of course that’s kind of a mother’s day/father’s day gift. We ate the first one today, cajun chicken with cole slaw and potato salad. We know the drill by now so it went together perfectly with only a hint of panic. The food was excellent.

Misbehavin’ truck

Today was eggplant parmigiana day – the first of this year’s eggplants and sauce from this week’s sauce batch. Delicious. All the window sills in the hallway and back bathroom are full of partially ripe tomatoes. These, along with 5 pounds of cherry tomatoes, will be ripe for this coming Thursday’s sauce project. This could be the last batch of sauce since the onset of rainy weather is causing the tomatoes plants to rot. We have plenty of sauce in the freezer – enough to get us to next year’s tomato crop – but sometimes we get to supplement it with a fall crop. I always try but it’s tough to predict since the seedlings go in when it’s too hot and the tomatoes start to ripen when frost is possible. If you plant too early, the seedlings just can’t handle the heat and humidity; if you plant too late, a December frost could nail them. It goes without saying that a hurricane wipes them out so you just have to be well aware that the fall tomato crop is a bonus, not to be counted on.

Father’s day turned out to be exciting. We had planned to celebrate the event at Tommy’s. When we visited there last week he mentioned that if we weren’t using our smoker (which he had bought for us a few years back), he could use it. Then during the week Joey called and asked us to pick up a few bags of fertilizer for him at Pierson Supply, a local farmer place with good products and pricing. so it made sense to load up the truck and take that instead of the car. There was also a good sale on steel fence posts (aka tomato stakes) at Tractor Supply in Deland on the way to Tom’s, so taking the truck made real sense.

I knew the truck wasn’t performing at peak and had planned a tune up in Crescent City on Wednesday when I took Nancy to her bridge game but had no doubts about driving it to Lake Mary. Bad decision. We got about half way when it started rockin’ and rollin’. I got out and checked under the hood and saw a mud dauber nest right overtop of the ignition wires. I knocked that off and started again and all was well – for about a mile. Each time we stopped, we called Tom and told them we were still on our way or on our way back home. It finally got really bad so we decided to call off the Lake Mary trip and change the venue to Barberville. Making it home became problematic so we decided to try for a local Deland repair shop and have one of the boys come by and pick us up there. All that worked and we ended up with the celebration happening but at a different venue, the lake. The original plan had us bringing the pasta and pasta sauce down to Tom’s and Tina making the salad and dessert. Instead we made the pasta at the lake and they brought the dessert and salad with them. As far as the truck, $600 later………………… It had been at least 15 years since anything resembling a tune up and probably that long on the brakes so I guess it was long overdue. One good thing is that the shop where we left it is owned and
operated by a “neighbor” here on Purdom Cemetery Road so he just drove the truck home. With Nancy not driving any more, servicing the cars becomes a little more complicated.

New Shoes

Dumped another 6” from the rain gauge and the lake is catching up fast. According to the weather folks, even with the June surplus, we’re still in a seasonal deficit of 6”-7” but at the rate we’re going, we could easily have a surplus by the end of the month. This hot wet weather is great for the compost pile. In the cooler, drier winter I struggle to get one or two piles in 6 months but as it is now and will be for the next 4 months, it cooks up really fast. That may be one reason the fall/winter crop does so well – the soil is loaded with freshly composted material.

Nancy picked up another Palm Coast bridge game on Friday and it looked like the weather was going to cooperate for another surf fishing expedition this week. In any event, I tracked down another new (to us) brew pub in Ormond Beach. This one supposedly offers up a fine pizza selection along with the brew plus it’s not too far out of the way going home. Report – kind of hard to find but we tracked it down. Great beer and pizza’s but a little pricey. It’s on the beach in the high rent district which means high overhead. So this ended up being a good day – I cut a tree down in the morning, went surf fishing in the afternoon, and hit a new brew pub in the evening. Does it get any better than that (other than actually catching fish)?

The Thursday sauce batch this week is literally over the top. Nancy bumped it up to her largest sauce pan and I picked two “buckets” of cherry tomatoes, the supposed plum variety. The pot was brimming right to the rim and we had to back out a few pints to be added a little later after some of the liquid had been cooked out. A normal Thursday load gets us 6-8 pints; this will be twice that. The good news is that Talenti is BOGO this week so Nancy can restock the containers. If you’re wondering how many more tomatoes we have, I could pick enough cherries today to do this same size batch again – on Tuesday. The large plum and round tomatoes are just starting to come on. When I say large, I weighed a couple of the recent picks and they came in right at 1 lb. Today’s harvest was 10 lbs of regular round and plums plus 8 lbs of cherries. I think I may have over done it this year. I even dusted off the green tomato cake recipe. A cake takes 4 cups of chopped green tomatoes so making and freezing a couple of those will help. That’s how we handle the zucchini overload. One thing for certain, I’ll cut way back on the fall tomato crop – if I do one at all. When we went to the grocery store I checked on the price of cherry tomatoes and found them at $3/ 8oz pint, $6/lb. Holy cow, that means this batch of sauce alone has $60 worth of tomatoes. Take that Ragu!!

Tom and Tina solved a problem for me with a great birthday present. On my beach days I’m having to wear shoes to drive, flip flops to walk on the beach between the car and where I fish, then barefoot when wading the surf. I can’t wear the flip flops while gathering sand fleas or wading out to cast because they stick in the soft sand and are easily lost. What I need is footwear that I can put on when I get up in the morning and then take off at bed time. Very multipurpose and virtually indestructible. Chaco’s. These are halfway between sandals and flip flops with great arch support. Simon first introduced them to the family when he was a camp counselor at Tremont in the Smokies. They needed shoes that could comfortably and safely handle mountain hiking and stream wading and night life and Chaco’s fit the bill. All the camp people had them. We bought a pair for Simon and then earlier this year, Nancy got a pair. Her need was stability, non skid, arch support and “stylish”. She raved about them but I personally never game them a thought until I started having to do the shoe switch and chase on surf fishing days. As if by magic, they showed up for my birthday courtesy of Tom and Tina. I thought maybe that would happen because I had mentioned to Nancy that I was going to pick up a pair next time we got to Daytona and she suggested waiting “until after your birthday”. I thought she had probably bought me a pair. This past Monday, official surf fishing day at Palm Coast, I broke them in. Perfect.

Lake’s Rising

Another Thursday, another large pot of spaghetti sauce. I went out to the garden this morning and noticed it had been a couple of days since plucking cherry tomatoes. What do you do with 10 lbs of cherry tomatoes? You pick some oregano, some basil and wake the chef up. Nancy gave away 4 pints of the last batch of sauce earlier this week – 2 to the quilt gal that supplies the ground beef; 2 to the bridge gal who donated about 10 lbs of sweet Vidalia onions – so we needed some replenishment of the stock. Just consider – the regular tomatoes haven’t started ripening yet.

And two more loaves of zucchini bread. These featured Cavili squash, blueberries, pecans, raisins and chocolate chips. Wonder if anyone has ever made a cherry tomato zucchini bread? It may be a stretch for Nancy but if there was ever a year to try it………..

We’re finally into the regular summer weather pattern. That means low 90’s by noon, rain by 4PM. We’ve had a particularly long dry spell and been plagued by wildfires for the past 3 months. This will end that quickly since the typical rain dump is 1-2” with an occasional real dumper. It’s not unusual at all to get an inch of rain in 15 minutes. Our 10 day forecast is for a daily 60% rain chance with plenty of severe storms. For calibration, we’ve had 5” so far this week and the lake is already up a few inches. The good news is that this weather will finish off many of the winter visitors and the wimpy Fla residents will start heading up to the Carolinas, leaving the beaches to the hardiest of us.

I’ve mentioned the new restaurants and gathering places that keep popping up in downtown Deland. Nancy heard about a “noodle” place so we gave it a shot for lunch. It’s a really small place and we passed by it a couple of times – I don’t mean in the car, I mean walking on the main street and just missing it. It’s only about 12’ wide and maybe 50-60’ long including the kitchen. Turns out it’s a Vietnamese place and neither of us had ever had Vietnamese food. One thing for sure – it’s popular- busting at the seams with lunch customers at 1PM, about the time you’d expect it to be clearing. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a seat. The menu was strange for us and the waitress did not have a command of English so we mostly made selections from pictures. I had a spicy vermicelli beef soup and Nancy had rice noodles and pork. Very good. Within a couple hundred feet on both sides of the boulevard we can eat Greek, Italian, Mexican, barbecue, deli sandwiches, and standard American; drink craft beer, wine, and meade; and speciality desserts. PS Deland was just voted Best Small Town or something like that, in a nationwide contest among 242 mainstreets in 48 states.

Learned something interesting and surprising. I mentioned, in a previous post, that we are beleaguered by cardinals attacking the sideview mirrors on any vehicle that parks around our house – independent of the color, make, model, style. If you park virtually anywhere near our house, within a couple of minutes the cardinals are on the mirrors and leaving droppings, either directly on the mirrors or on the car frame. We protect our vehicles with booties Nancy fabricated and keep a spare set for guests. They work 100%. We assumed this was something common and not just perpetrated against us but we learned that none of our neighbors have the problem. They have plenty of cardinals in the trees around them but no side mirror attacks. I checked when one neighbor said he had no trouble and found that not one of the 3 adjacent neighbors have ever had the problem. What???? As the crow (cardinal) flies, these three neighbors are within 150’ of us. I was curious enough to call the Florida Wildlife folks. They were aware of the mirror attack issue with cardinals but had no idea why they were active only on our property. They suggested that I “cover the car or park it in the garage”. duh.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I had a large, nearly dead oak tree adjacent to my utility shed which has bothered me for a couple of years now. I have been concerned that the large limbs would break off and crash onto the shed or the nearby well pump. During a large storm last year a smaller branch did poke thru the roof and required patching. Mark took down one threatening limb but it crashed down during the process and dinged the shed so I was concerned that it was a job for professionals with the right equipment. I talked to two different tree guys after hurricane Mathew last year and both told me they had a large backlog but would be back in a few weeks to take it down. I never heard from either again. I think it was just too small a job for them to bother with. George came over yesterday to take down a dead pine I have – one that had been hit by lightning last summer. It’s not in a spot that will cause any problems if it falls and when we looked at it seriously, decided it was really a big job and to let nature work on it for a while. I suggested that I had this oak up by the shed that I really would like gone. The trick to bringing down the oak was to be absolutely certain that it fell in the right direction – anything less than just right could be an expensive felling. George has a 100’ length of extra stout rope which we wanted to tie around the tree to apply tension in the right direction. We got a ladder and managed to throw the rope around a limb about 20’ up from the ground. We brought the truck into the action to apply the tension and started the cut. Down it came – exactly where planned. We then cut it into firewood. The whole job took a couple of hours and we were both worn to a frazzle.

About a year ago a new restaurant opened in beautiful downtown Deland, next door to our favorite Greek place. They had a nice writeup in the local paper which revealed that the house speciality were grilled cheese sandwiches. Not just grill cheese sandwiches but $15 grilled cheese sandwiches. We passed. A couple of days ago Tom called and suggested we hook up for dinner in Deland. They were planning to spend the day in Daytona and Deland is more or less on their way home so we frequently hook up in Deland for dinner and/or a brewski. He suggested Yolo, the cheese sandwich place. Nancy agreed and I figured we’d probably meet there and then realize there were much better places nearby. The place always looked dead to me and I assumed that the very expensive grilled cheese concept was a non starter in a country town. Turns out that inside it has a really eclectic decor and a large selection of craft beers on tap – which are very reasonably priced during happy hour. I was hooked at that point. The menu had nothing but exotic grilled cheese sandwiches and interesting sides. Wow, were the sandwiches good. I had a spicy chicken and cheese sandwich, Nancy had a more standard grilled cheese but with several different cheeses. Olivia had a Mac and Cheese sandwich and Tina had a jam and cheese. Tom, the same spicy chicken as me. They are served with a tomato bisque for dipping and an unusual selection of sides. I had pretzels. No doubts at all – this was the best grilled cheese sandwich I ever had – also the most expensive – but I guarantee, we’ll be back. I had really never seen any customers there but it turns out the place is jammed late, open until 2AM.