Tag Archives: beach

MORE BEACH & AMAZING STIR-FRIED BEEF with RICE NOODLES (serves 6-8)

Cape May

Cape May Point, New Jersey

Our week at the beach was one long party from morning to night. There is nothing quite like waking up and lying in bed thinking about what to do first……should I run, should I go to the bakery  for pastries, what time should I hit the beach…..all such trivial thoughts…..and I loved every second of it!

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles (recipe below)

When the Life Guards ended their shift at 5.30pm, bottles of wine and cocktails emerged from the depths of people’s coolers (including ours) and the evening took on a whole new atmosphere.

jy

Lovely Cape May Point late afternoon

It was really fun mixing drinks on the beach and then settling in to watch the light changing.

Everyone has tried this at least once!

Everyone has tried this at least once…right??

By this point we had usually lost one or two of the kids who were exhausted from the sun and ocean and had no excuse as delicious as ours to linger on the beach.

jg

I loved watching all kinds of boats sail by our beach

 Chat was non-existent at times as we each sat in our own quiet reverie sipping our lovely drinks.

It was also really lovely watcing all kinds of sea birds hunting for food

It was also fun watching sea birds hunting for food

When we did talk it was mostly about dinner preparations and who was on what task. Nothing would be done however until after a visit to the cool and invigorating outdoor shower!

jyg

This bird blended perfectly into his surroundings

 The last evening my daughter stayed in the water until the last possible moment. The only company she had were the waves and a pod of dolphins swimming further out.

This Bird may have been eyeing up my daughter very close to my daughters head

A Bird eying up my daughter for his lunch!

Happy Hour is approaching

🍹Happy Hour is approaching🍹

We packed up on Saturday morning and left our little spot on Cape May Point for another year. It rained all the way home.

Junior Life Gaurds in training - very Baywatch!

Life Guards in training

 I made a great Asian Noodle Dish one night and here is the recipe – it was scrumptious and a big hit with everyone!

🏄

*This is a great Blood Type A Recipe if you substitute the beef for Salmon or Tofu*

You will need:

3-4 tbs olive oil

2 lbs top sirloin beef – cut into very thin pieces (or salmon fillets without skin – two 3 oz pieces per person)

2 medium sweet onions, sliced in half and sliced thinly

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

2 carrots – grated

4 cups chopped spinach

1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)

1 cup chopped peanuts (simple place the peanuts in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling-pin or bash with a mallet)

1 lime cut into 6-8 wedges (for serving)

1lb rice noodles (I use rice noodles from Thailand. Try to find imported rice noodles if you can. They are the same price as the brands produced in the United States but are so much better in texture and taste – anther good importer is any rice noodle from the Roland company)

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand

Dipping Sauce & Marinade (I used this mixture for both as it was less hassle):

Mix together in a medium bowl with a whisk:

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup mirin (sweetened sake found in the Asian or Ethnic section of your supermarket or Specialty Store)

2 tbs soft light brown sugar

2 or 3 cloves garlic – finely minced

juice of 1 lime

1 tbs tomato ketchup (sounds odd I know but this adds another layer of acid)

Method:

kv

This is an amazing dish with tons of flavor and can be made very quickly!

*put big pot of water on to boil for the rice noodles and cook according to instructions. Drain in colander and rinse throughly with cold water to stop cooking and to rinse out the starches*

1 – Put sliced beef in a bowl or ziploc-type bag and add about a 1/4 cup of the soy mixture. Mix it all up to coat everything and leave in the fridge for at least a half hour or overnight.

OR

Place salmon fillets into a baking pan or shallow casserole and add a tbs of marinade/sauce for every 6oz of salmon and turn to coat. Place in fridge for up to 30 minutes (or several hours)

*set aside the rest of the marinade/sauce for the noodles and for the table to be passed as needed*

2 – Place a big saute pan or wok on high heat and add 2 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot, stir-fry the beef in batches for 3 to 4 minutes until all the meat is cooked. Transfer to a bowl as you go and add more oil as needed. Keep meat warm in a low oven (170*) while preparing the rest of the dish.

*If using salmon, fry in oil on high heat for 3 minutes per side and reserve and keep warn in a low oven*

3 – Turn heat down slightly and add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes before adding the carrots. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes or so.

4 – Turn the heat to medium/low heat and add the drained and rinsed rice noodles. Add about a half cup of soy sauce mixture and stir. Add the cilantro and spinach at this time. When noodles have warmed turn the heat off (or down to low if not serving straight away).

5 – Divide between shallow bowls or large plates and top with a serving of the beef, (or salmon), a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and about a tablespoon of peanuts. Use more garnishes if you love them!

At the table pass more cilantro, peanuts and some Sriracha sauce.

People addicted to Sriracha sauce end up doing this to most anything remotely asian in stlye

People addicted to Sriracha sauce end up doing this to most anything remotely Asian in flavor.

This dish can also be prepared with a fish protein or with no meat whatsoever. If using no meat, you can fry tofu (using the same method as the salmon)

kh

This can also be served with fish like salmon – since the protein is prepared separately from the noodles and veggies, it is easy to make two different proteins to satisfy all tastes and diets (instructions for using salmon are given in this recipe)

Cape May 2015

Cape May 2015

REMEMBERING SUMMER 2014 – 1ST INSTALLMENT: CAPE MAY

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey – The very first thing we did when school ended in June!

When school started last week it had the depressing effect of abruptly ending my summer. The weather is still warm (unbearably so today!) but my mindset has shifted into more of a work-mode – Drat!

Lots of reading and paddle ball!

Lots of reading and paddleball!

I want to sit here for a few hours and recollect this most wonderful Summer and talk about some of the highlights (great and small) via the eye of my ever-ready camera!

Back on the familiar beach

Back on the familiar beach

  These are the moments in my life that are no longer lost on me. (and to think all it took was several decades of blindness!). This will be my third annual installment about our trip to Cape May Beach in New Jersey for a week with our friends, and every year a couple of gem moments stand out.

My friend Celine kicking off the Summer!

My friend Celine kicking off the Summer (and that’s not water in her glass!)

This year, it was my disbelief at how much the kids had grown up since we first began this ritual only three years ago!

Let's try the boogie boards

3 years ago

Three years in my life has bestowed my face and body with more “character” (my kind way of saying I have a few more wrinkles and feel a little creakier), but my kids and their friend Marie-Lyse, blossomed from children into teenagers and grew a collective 5 feet!!

This time

This summer!

Going from children to teenagers comes with obvious changes, but as  far as these three friends, and siblings were concerned, all bets were off when it came to hanging out together on the beach; the usual crab hunting,

Find those critters!

Find those critters!

boogie-boarding,

one two three

one-two-three

Paddleball,

Hurling the ball to the girls in the surf

Calder hurling the ball to the girls in the surf

and bucket and spade action were the top priority.

where there is sand, there is also a bucket and spade close by

where there is sand, there is also a bucket and spade close by

Suddenly being cool (or trying to be cool) wasn’t important anymore.

Stay up Ide!

Stay up Ide!

 Our routine was pretty much the same; late morning breakfast,

Butter Bun from

Butter Bun from The Red Store (A great restaurant in Cape May point, minutes from our house – more about The Red Store below!)

followed by the 3 minute trek to our spot on the beach and then, home for cocktails and a lavish dinner and late night chat, with maybe a walk on the beach.

This is probably one of the only places people doon't bat an eye when they see a grwon woman playing with a plastic bucket in the sand - lucky Celine!

This is probably the only places people don’t bat an eye when they see a grown woman playing with a plastic bucket in the sand – lucky Celine!

One of the reasons it is imperative for people to leave their homes for a few weeks during the year is to give them a break. When you separate or “break” away from your house you feel suddenly free. Why is this?

Marie-Lyse taking a break from fun

Marie-Lyse taking a break from fun

For me, it is simple: when I am supposedly relaxing at home, I still find myself cleaning or shopping for dinner and God know what else. I cannot sit still, always finding things to do. But, when I am stranded in a pretty cool house by the beach there is nothing to distract me, no laundry ( I lie, there is the pile of sandy towels to attend to each evening!), no running here or there, no anything.

lots of walks on the beach

lots of walks on the beach

I end up being busy thinking up a million different ways to have fun: invent new cocktails, explore the lighthouse a quarter-mile away, collect pebbles on the rock beach, dig holes in the sand (actually it was Dave who decided to dig holes – yes, a grown-up!).

The girls liked to climb into the life gaurds after they left the beach in the evening

The girls liked to climb into the life guard chair after they left the beach for the evening

And that was all we did really. There was no real objective and I began to feel like what my kids must feel like when there is no school. It is no problem for them to drop everything and be “in the moment” as they say. It takes me a little bit longer to shake off the guilt of being idle, but after three years of being stranded in Cape May for a week, I have finally gotten the hang of it.

Playing paddleball with Calder after dinner (dorsn't everyone?)

Playing paddleball with Calder after dinner (doesn’t everyone?)

So for a week, I sat in my deck chair reading or dreaming about dinner, while I watched the kids have the time of their lives.

Ide digging for disgusting sand crabs!

Ide digging for sand crabs!

And no one was more oblivious to the world around them than when Calder, Ide and Marie-Lyse were playing on the beach or in the ocean together.

waiting for that big wave

waiting for that big wave

While I watched them I knew I was looking at something special, and so found it easy to stop thinking about the world and all my problems, and instead be amazed by their faces as they appeared and disappeared in the water.

yeah!

yeah!

And then of course, there was the food…and it was STELLAR!

Pesto and chicken with crisp romaine lettuce for lunch

Pesto and chicken with crisp romaine lettuce for lunch

We packed wonderful lunches every day with cold drinks and ate whenever we felt like it.

Soft shell crab

Fried Soft shell crab

And the thing that would revive us each evening (and spur me on to make dinner), was a refreshing Cape May Cocktail (Cape Maytini!).

Cape Maytini: 1 shot vodka, 1/2 shot of triple sec, 2 shots of good quality lemonade, shaken and poured over ice - deliciously refreshing

Cape Maytini: 1 shot vodka, 1/2 shot of triple sec, 2 shots of good quality lemonade, shaken and poured over ice – deliciously refreshing

After an outdoor shower followed by a cocktail it was very easy to mill around the kitchen and get dinner ready together.

Pork Lo Mein

Pork Lo Mein

 One night we had Asian, the next night French, and the next a Fish Fry, depending on who was doing the cooking.

Whole Chicken slow-cooked in white wine and fresh herbs whcih I brought from my garden. (this cooked while we lounged on the beach!)

Whole Chicken slow-cooked in white wine and fresh herbs, which I brought from my garden. (this cooked while we lounged on the beach!)

One of the meals that I most remember was the night Celine cooked a boatload of fresh sole fish.

Fried sole

Fried sole

Before going to the beach one morning, myself and Celine headed to The Lobster House with the intention of buying a few dozen crabs for dinner. When we got there and saw a pile of freshly caught sole, we both instantly thought, “Fish Fry!”

Rice with pesto and veggies

Rice with pesto and veggies

While Celine fried the fish, I made a rice and veggie medley.

Expertly chopped lemons

Expertly chopped lemons

Dave Chopped lemons (I know, a real chef in the making!)

Romaine and Mozzarella salad

Romaine and Mozzarella salad

and then Celine made a fantastic Romaine and Mozzarella salad.

our spectacualr dinner

our spectacular dinner

The whole thing was completely amazing and we managed to eat 4 lbs of fish between us!

Freshly baked croissant from

Freshly baked croissant from The Red Store in Cape May Point

Some mornings I treated us to some yummy pastries from the cafe five minutes walk from our house.

The artful truck of a landscape gardner in Cape May Point

The artful truck of a landscape gardener in Cape May Point. We came across it while walking to the restaurant.

One day we treated ourselves to brunch at The Red Store, a fantastic little local restaurant (and the same place I got the wonderful pastries)

one more look at this amazing truck!

one more look at this amazing truck! It is at times like this I am so glad that I have a camera attached to my shoulder.

The Red Store is this great little restaurant run by Lucas Manteca and Deanna Ebner, who focus on locally sourced food and support local artisans like beekeepers who supply their little restaurant shop with honey,

and all sorts of other locally grown products.

Beach Plum Jam form Jalma Farms

Beach Plum Jam form Jalma Farms

They also have a star pastry chef, Michel Atelier who made the mouth-watering pastries we ate most mornings.

for brunch, the girls started out with berry smoothies

for brunch, the girls started out with berry smoothies

It is a laid back place where you can bring your own bottle of wine if you so choose (darn, forgot the champagne for mimosas – next year!)

Quiche Lorraine with Fresh green Salad

Quiche Lorraine with Fresh green Salad

I had a lovely Quiche with a great garden salad, while others of us tried some of the omelets.

Hame and Cheese omelet with savory homefries

Ham and Cheese omelet with savory home fries

Next year we plan on having dinner one night ( I’ll let you know how it is!).

A lush pond which I ran around most mornings!

A lush pond which I looped around most mornings!

And there it is, another Cape May trip has come and gone. We played on the beach,

Calder & Ide

Calder & Ide

took time with friends,

Just hanging out

Just hanging out

played strenuous sports (!)

Played lots of paddleball

Paddleball!

And dug a hole big enough to put a chair into and eat your lunch in private!

A very large hole (this hole kept Dave busy excavating for hours!)

A very large hole (this hole kept Dave busy excavating for hours!)

All in all, a trip worth remembering.

sunset Cape May Point, New Jersey

sunset: Cape May Point, New Jersey

Layered Turkey Curry: Great Dinner For Tired Swimmers and Hole Diggers! (serves 6 or more)

I make lots of dinners that can be classified as “curry”, and here is another one I made while at the beach a week ago!

Great Take on Turkey Curry

Great Take on Turkey Curry

Once you have a good curry powder you should feel free to use it in all kinds of dishes, either as the main flavor or used as a subtle background palate pleaser. I toss it into anything that might need a little boost of flavor or to add an aire of complexity to the dish. It has saved many a dinner for me, many a time!

Hole diggers

Hole diggers

For me the spices used to make curry powder are not so much about heat as they are about how they add an exotic twist to something ordinary. Of course you can use a blend that singes your taste buds and numbs your lips if it adds to your enjoyment, and I have certainly gone both ways depending on my mood.

Green Cardamum Pods

Green cardamom pods and seeds

The good thing is that I made sure to scoop a hefty handful of my favorite blend when I packed all things culinary for the beach a couple of weeks ago. I will admit to being one of those people who does not like flying-by-the seat-of-her-pants when it comes to arriving at a rental house for a week in the hopes that the person who stocked the kitchen is as passionate about food as I am. I have learned over the years what the essentials are, and besides coffee and Maldon salt, curry powder is another one of those can’t-live-without ingredients as far as I’m concerned!

Tired Swimmers

Tired Swimmers

I know, there is also a picture of just-opened cardamom pods, and this is because I have discovered how useful a flavor booster they can be when your pantry is paltry!  Anyway, about those little green pods…have you ever bashed one open with a mortar and pestle and taken a whiff? The smell sends you reeling to aromatic heaven. It has a distinctive minty fragrance with rich tar-like overtones. It feels like it gives balance to the heady-ness of curry spices and I love using these little black seeds in everything lately. In other words: they came along to the beach too.

I also packed a giant bag of herbs from my garden!

I also packed a giant bag of herbs from my garden!

The last thing I think is essential when leaving your kitchen for a week or so is a bag of fresh herbs. I find if I have fresh herbs, certain spices, salt and good stock cubes (I packed my trusty Rapunzel Vegetarian cubes with Herbs) I can make the saddest of meat and veggies taste good. Luckily the supermarket was not too shabby so we ate like kings every night.

the beach makes you hungry

The beach makes you hungry

This curry was a sort of experiment as the one thing I forgot was my big work horse of a pan for making one-pot meals. I wanted to make a curry type casserole but could only find a thin roasting/lasagna style pan. I made do, and cooked each thing separately in a small pan on the stove-top and then layered the ingredients as I would a lasagna into the cheap-o pan, topping the whole thing off with a broth-y sauce, and then baking it in the oven.

Hazy and hot

Hazy and hot weather also makes you thirsty!

The result surprised me. It was really an interesting way to cook everything and was supremely delicious. I was glad I had to compromise as it has now freed up my brain into thinking that you don’t have to have the best pan in the world to get great tasting food… although, I must say right now that I will only be parted from my stainless steel all-clad pans when prised from my cold dead fingers!

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*This is a great Blood Type A diet Recipe EXCEPT omit the cream and add more broth – Yes there is curry powder but if you use something mild, I say it is fine, unless you are ultra sensitive*

You will need:

olive oil (for frying)

sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

2 lbs turkey breast, sliced

1 medium onion (white, yellow or sweet will do)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 zucchini, cut into large chunks

6 cups baby kale (or chopped regular kale)

10 mushrooms, sliced (white,  crimini or shiitake will work)

4 or so thyme sprigs

4 to 6 green cardamom pods (bashed open and seeds removed and reserved)

2 tbls good quality curry powder (if it has a lot of heat, reduce the amount)

2 tbs all-purpose four

3 cups broth (or 1 good quality bouillon cube, either chicken or vegetarian and water)

1 cup heavy cream

*serve with basmati rice – make enough for 6 people*

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Season meat lightly on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put a big saute pan on high heat and add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot brown the meat on both sides, making sure not to crowd the pan as you go. You will need to do this in batches and add more oil as needed.

Sear the turkey

Sear the turkey

2 – Layer the turkey in an evenly in the bottom of a roasting style pan or casserole dish. Scatter the zucchini on top.

Layer turkey, then zucchini

Layer turkey, then zucchini

3 – Turn pan down to medium and add a little more oil, followed by the onions and garlic. saute for 2 or so minutes before adding the sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs.

Saute rest of veggies

Saute rest of veggies

4 – Add the curry powder and cardamom seeds and stir everything together for about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir well. Add the liquids 1 cup at a time, adding the cream last. Stir as you go and turn heat up slightly. Cook until mixture begins to bubble. Turn off heat. Taste sauce for addition of salt and pepper.

Add curry powder and liquids

Add curry powder and liquids

5 – Sprinkle kale in an even layer on top of the zucchini and then do the same with the onion and mushroom mixture. Pour the sauce over everything and place in preheated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Add baby kale, then veggie mixture

Add baby kale, then veggie mixture

6 – Remove from oven and let the dish rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Add sauce, then bake

Add sauce, then bake

Serve as is or with your favorite starch: bread, rice or pasta!

Serve on its own or with rice

Serve on its own or with rice

A few Days At The Beach AND A Quick Way to Feed People with Minimum Effort: Foiled Fish For Four (or more!)

Evening at Cape May Point

Evening at Cape May Point

It is beach time again and I thought that would mean lounging around reading, swimming and writing long meandering posts of my observations and what I have been cooking. Well, that’s not exactly how it has been working out!

Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

My friend Kelley and I are have been abandoned by our spouses this year to fend for ourselves. What I can I say…the week at the beach was booked for a year, circumstances changed and Kelley and I were the only ones free this particular week, (Dave managed two days before leaving). How could we disappoint our children who had been dreaming about this moment for what seemed like an eternity when you use “kid logic” (they live in different countries!)

Calder

Calder

Who knew it would be so much more difficult to do this with only two adults. This year I am chief cook and bottle washer while Kelley is errand boy and wrangler of all things beach-related.

Ide

Ide

This left very little time for that novel I was looking forward to reading and writing down what I have been up to.

Marie-Lyse

Marie-Lyse

We have also had a few misadventures, like the first day when we were not thinking sensibly and dragged everyone to the beach at high noon, resulting in burning my poor fair-skinned son to a crisp!

Cape May Light House

Cape May Light House

Then there was the day we were determined to stay on the beach even though the wind was whipping sand in our faces and our big umbrella was threatening to uproot itself and sail away down the beach.

Looking for nice rocks on sunset Beach

Looking for nice rocks on Sunset Beach

Or the other evening when we felt so bad because the kids couldn’t swim all of that day because of the sudden appearance of hundreds of jellyfish keeping them out of the water, and then letting them swim in their clothes when we went for a walk on the beach in the evening. This left me with a pile of sand-ridden clothes and towels to wash: never again!

Fried!

Fried!

Yesterday we thought we had finally gotten things right: leaving for the beach in the later cooler afternoon, buying my son something to cover his entire body to guard against another case of sunburn, and getting food ready before we left to quickly throw on the grill for dinner upon our return.

Jelly Fish Farming

Jelly Fish Farming

However, when we got to the beach the jellyfish had decided to stick around and I’m afraid digging holes in the sand did not appeal to my teenage boy so he went back to the house to mope and the girls decided the only thing to do was remove the jellyfish from the water, one shovel load at a time.

Must be mating season

Must be mating season

They had done this the day before and now they were getting profession. They dug a wide pond-like hole several feet from the water and filled it with water with their trusty orange beach bucket. Then, for the next couple of hours they filled their pond with jellyfish until it looked like a pink pulsating planet.

No swimming today

No swimming today

It didn’t rid the ocean of these stinging creatures but it did mange to keep them busy for hours and even managed to amuse anyone who walked by who were also more than a little put out by not being able to enjoy the water.

What life guards do after 5pm

What Life Guards do after 5pm

By about 7pm, Kelley and I, who had enough of the beach for the day, asked if they were ready to leave? They kept asking us to wait just in case there was a chance that the jellyfish would magically decide to go our to sea leaving them to swim at least once that day.

Lots of fishing but as Dave said "I've never seen anyone catch anything!"

Lots of fishing but as Dave said “I’ve never seen anyone catch a fish!”

We would have held out only it looked like it was going to storm and we didn’t want to get struck by lightning!

Kelly grilled Scallops

Kelley grilled Scallops

When we got back our barbecue plan was foiled by the rolling thunder so we had to cook our lovely marinated chicken in the oven. It was good but would have tasted so much better eating it from the grill outside on the porch.

and shrimp (so we did get lucky with the grilling one night!)

and shrimp (so we did get lucky with the grilling one night!)

Okay, so we have two beach days left and this morning I said to Kelley, “how about ousting the kids out of bed early, taking them to the beach before the jellyfish invasion, no long preparations, no snacks, just towels and sunscreen?”

He popped out of his chair and said “ready in five!”

on the beach

on the beach

They were installed in our usual spot by 10am and Kelley took the first shift while I escaped to be alone for the first time in 5 days!

A text from Kelley sent the news that the waves were perfect, there was a cool breeze and the kids had not left the water since their arrival.

uh

Another look

I have not seen sight nor hair of anyone in two hours.We may have finally got it right!

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Foiled Fish Recipe

This is a great way to feed plenty of hungry beach goers and allows you to spend them with them rather than tied to the kitchen!

All it requires you to do is wrap fish in some foil with some great flavorings in the morning, letting everything marinate, and then throwing the foiled packs into the oven for 15 minutes to cook!

Foiled Fish

Foiled Fish

You will need:

4 pieces of firm white fish or more for more people (tilapia, flounder, haddock, cod, fillet trout, monk fish etc)

1/4 cup extra virgin oil

1/2 cup white wine

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

several grinds black pepper

8 sprigs thyme

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Wash and dry fish.

2 – Tear off 4 large pieces of heavy-duty foil and double it. Lay fish is center. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

3 – Mix oil, wine, and lemon juice together and spoon over the fish carefully. Add 2 sprigs of thyme to each fish and fold packet neatly but not too tight. (This can be done hours or up to 15 minutes ahead of time)

Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and check to make sure the fish is cooked through, and serve with all of its lovely juices.

You can serve this as is or with some sautéed spinach and rice, some pasta or a salad.

More of this tomorrow

More of this tomorrow

The Beach, Cape May: Day 1 and deciding on the Holiday Happy Hour Cocktail (with recipe!)

So, it is officially Summer and yesterday, we packed the car to the gills and headed to what appears to be our annual trip to the beach at Cape May, New Jersey.

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The first look at the beach for my kids and their best friend Marie-Lyse!

The traffic was pretty brutal, so what was supposed to be a 3 hour drive turned into 5. This would have been awful except for the fact that my daughter and I decided to use her iPod to make videos of ourselves singing along to whatever was playing on the radio. Yes, it had definite goof-ball qualities but I am pretty sure that it is done on long road trips more than travelers are willing to admit!

Day 1

Day 1

We were meeting our friends who drove from Quebec to meet us at the same house they rented last year. The kids had not seen each other since Christmas when they came to stay at our house for the holiday, and were beside themselves when we arrived. It was so odd, I was a year older and felt every bit of it, and they had grown inches taller and looked fabulous.

jhg

Ide & Marie-Lyse

Instantly they hugged and laughed and then sort of stood back and looked,  feeling sort of shy staring back at their friend who had morphed into a different person, older looking… was that eye make-up?  It was an interesting moment to watch, and then I remembered I was a tired and frustrated woman in dire need of a drink: just to calm the nerves.

Beach finds

Beach finds

Our friend Kelley stood in the kitchen and pointed to the counter and said, “I’ve been to the wine store, what should we open?” I told him that wine was great but that this time I was going to introduce him to a new drink, a cocktail that perhaps we could make a staple of our happy hour for the week. There were no objections.

green rocks

Green rocks

The day before I had killed myself cleaning the house, planning possible menus and packing for our trip, and by evening felt the urge to go to a bar and have a shot of whiskey. What I mean is…have you ever watched one of those movies where the protagonist has gone through some major crisis and the next shot is of him (or her) bellied up to their local bar and nodding to the bartender? Of course you have. Then the bartender would pour the required drink and it would be downed in a single head throw-back. This is how I felt, only I wanted to act as my own barkeep.

Marie-Lyse and Green Rocks

Marie-Lyse and Green Rocks

As Kelley went for the wine opener I asked if there was ice? When he nodded I told him we were going to have something a little stronger. “Like what?”, he said. “Like Vodka”, I replied. He said he hadn’t had anything but beer or wine in “God knows how long”, but he felt my urgency and pointed to the freezer.

The Beach

The Beach

I told him about my crazy day of trip preparations and the need for a drink, and the discovery of having nothing alcoholic in the house, followed by the trip to my sister-in-law next door where we were supplied with what they had: vodka, and then my inventing this drink, which was derived from pure desperation: lemonade from my daughter’s Lemonade Stand and the vodka from next door.

The cocktail

The cocktail

The drink that was created satisfied me to no end and this is what I wanted to reinvent for Kelley, (after all when drinking one needs a partner!). I paired vodka with homemade lemonade over ice. I wasn’t quiet satisfied as I wanted it to be something special and more unique. It is hard to serve up a simple vodka and lemonade in this day and age with all of those mixologists out there grinding herbs and infusing fruits into drinks that should be photographed and not libated! So, I added a sage leaf that I had brought from my garden and served it to Kelley who said, “Why would you put a leaf into a perfectly good drink?”

Well, he drank it! And, the next day we had another, and another. He seems to be fine with the “leaf ” now.

The drink with a leaf in it!

The drink with a leaf in it!

Anyway, we have 6 more days here in Cape May and the only thing missing is Celine, Kelley’s lovely wife and my good friend who could not make it this time around. This week of our adventures of sun, beach, food and cocktails is dedicated to her so she feels a little like she is here with us.

Recipe for Vodka with Lemonade and Sage

1 shot (1/4 cup) of chilled vodka

2/3 cup lemonade (the most natural you can find)

1 slice lemon

1 sage leaf

Method:

Fill glass with ice. Pour vodka with lemonade into glass. Add a slice of lemon and sage leaf. Feel free to bruise sage before adding to release flavor. Drink!

More to come

More to come

Heavenly Lunch On A Beach In Ireland (Despite The Weather!)

Curracloe

I am finally coming to terms with the fact that going to the beach in Ireland in the height of Summer is very different from say my beach experience in Cape May, New Jersey (United States) a few weeks ago. Getting ready to spend the day lounging on the beach in Cape May was a simple matter of lathering up with sunscreen, sticking a beach towel and chair under my arm, and sauntering over to the beach in my bikini and flip-flops.

No bikinis on this cloudy beach (check out the man in the beach chair: perfectly dressed for the day)

The preparations for my beach trips to Curracloe in County Wexford this week required a little more luggage shall we say. I knew it would be brisk, so I exchanged the bikini for a skirt and t-shirt, along with a sweater and umbrella (not for the sun, but for the likelihood of rain!).

My heavenly lunch (truly)

On our way to the coast I decided to pick up something for lunch. I was not organised enough to pack a picnic, but knew the moment we laid our towels on the sand my kids would say they were hungry. Somehow, the combination of sitting on a beach and watching the waves, awakens our appetites in a ravenous way. My only luck at finding a grocery shop ended at a little hole-in-the-wall store, which only grabbed my attention because of the over abundant display of plastic beach paraphernalia dangling from a multitude of hooks and teetering outside of the entrance.

Bundled up with hearty sandwiches.

It so happened to be the perfect place for all of my beach needs. We picked up a couple of buckets and spades, 3 fresh crusty rolls, stuffed with roasted chicken, strong cheese, and greens, a bunch of red grapes, and a little bottle of screw-cap french wine, which I couldn’t believe a little rural shop would even think to stock. We were set!

just plain fun

I learned a few things while watching my kids play very happily on the blustery beach: I remembered how when I was their age doing exactly the same thing, not bothered that the sun shone intermittently in-between billowy clouds, and that the water was cold, but not cold enough to keep me out of it, at how eating a sandwich after digging up the sand for an hour tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten, and at how watching the rush of the waves turning little pebbles over in its wake was mesmerizing, and finally, the best part of it all was watching my children, mimicking my own childhood.

cold, but no more complaining

So, the deal is, the beach doesn’t have to be tropical (or even warm for that matter) to be enjoyable. The truth is I was probably more comfortable reading my book all bundled up than I would have been melting on some sweltering beach with no relief for the glaring hot sun. I will most certainly be back to the little shop for sandwiches and wine on my way to our spot by the grassy dunes in Curracloe.

Last Two Days At The Beach: Pebbles, Boogie Boards And A Great Lunch: Pasta with Sausage, Greens and Herbs in White Wine Broth (serves 4)

Washing, drying and arranging pebbles

I’m finding that after writing about being at the beach for the past 3 days I really don’t have anything more to add. Nothing exciting or unusual ever happened (not counting the fact that I wore a bikini for the first time in 20 years and put my head in the ocean!), and now I realize that is the whole point.

Pasta with Sausage, Greens and Herbs in White Wine Broth (serves 4) Recipe below.

Up to now I had never spent any more than a day at the beach and so never got into that mentality of a totally relaxing kind of holiday frame of mind. People who absolutely love the beach either do so because they enjoy swimming, surfing and generally spending most of their time in the water, or, are the kind who like to just “be” by the sea, in their lounge chair reading a book, or content to watch their kids or grand kids endlessly playing in the water.

Strenuous morning activity

I feel a bit guilty admitting this but, my idea of relaxing is going to a new city (or at least near one), and getting immersed in the culture, the people, the language. I like to feel connected to people, and that does not really happen at the beach (for me at least). The beach feels more like a place were people are together, but they don’t want to be disturbed.

World war II Cement Bottom Ship

At this point I will admit to learning one interesting thing on the 4th morning of our beach vacation, and it is to do with the wonderful lonely wreck just off the pebble beach we visited, (above). My friend Kelley told me they made these ships in Cape May, New Jersey as an experiment in World War II which had cement in their framework. The idea was that they could not be sunk by the enemy during battles fought at sea.

OK – so I had to find out more. I discovered that twelve of these cement ships were built to the tune of $50,000,000 but turned out to be impractical because of their weight, and incidentally were not even completed by the end of the war. This little bit of knowledge added to my beach experience! I suppose you could say that I cannot relax, but I like to think that a little brain stimulation is my kind of relaxing.

Let’s try the boogie boards

However, despite being somewhat out of my element, there were things I loved about being at the beach: it made me sit and watch my kids for hours and hours having fun with their very best friend. It kept me in a lounge chair (too hot to move) and compelled me to be still for several hours at a time. It slowed my life down, and that was probably a very good thing.

looking for a wave

My friends told me that they booked the house for the same time next year and very graciously invited us to join them again. I may very well accept their offer.

Simply: Ide & Marie-Lyse

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I made this for lunch on our 4th day and it was a big hit – give it a try!

Quick Pasta with Sausages, Bacon & Herbs in White Wine Broth

You will need:

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, small dice

2 sprigs fresh oregano

2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 pieces streaky bacon, sliced into pieces

4 breakfast sausages, sliced into pieces

1 medium yellow squash, sliced, then diced

4 cups spinach leaves (chopped if large, leave whole if you are using baby spinach leaves)

1/2 cup white wine

3/4 cup veggie or chicken broth

sea-salt and black pepper to taste

1lb pasta (I used mini ridged penne – Barilla brand)

Method:

1 – Prep all ingredients. Put big pot of cold water on high heat for pasta and cook according to instructions. When pasta has cooked scoop out about a half cup of pasta water and reserve in case you need it later in the dish. do not rinse.

2 – Put large saute pan (big enough to hold final dish) on medium/low heat and add the oil. Add the sausages, bacon and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions soften and meat begins to brown and release fat.

saute veggies and meat

3 – Add the squash and herbs and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

add liquids

4 – Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Taste and add sea-salt and pepper if you think it needs it (you should be the judge of this).

add spinach

5 – At this point the pasta will be cook. Immediately add to veggies and broth, along with the spinach leaves. Stir everything together (the spinach will wilt and cook in a minute or so). If you would like a “looser’ sauce, add some of the reserved pasta water until you are satisfied with the consistency.

Then pasta, and stir everything together

Divide between shallow bowls and add some Parmigiano Reggiano if you like.