Food for the Occasional Beach Bum

Atlantic Ocean Driftwood

It’s scary how fast I can turn into a beach bum.  Power suits, business casual, the perfect little black dress and pearls can all be gone in 60 seconds or less when the sea is calling. Years, way too many years, have passed since I have been on a beach.  Although in Savannah last weekend the temps were hovering in the high 40s I even surprised myself as to how quickly I returned to beach bum mentality.

Savannah vs. Beach   

Map of siege of Fort Pulaski : Savannah River ...

If you know your geography you have already begun typing out a comment to let me know that the city of Savannah is not ocean front property.  I was there, I know that.  Savannah’s claim to marine notoriety is the Savannah River but that didn’t stop my senses from quivering when we drove past the first marshes and around the numerous squares in the historic section of Savannah.

Sand and seafood were calling.  The city was just another dot on a map, something to be driven through as we answered the call; not a quiet subtle siren song; it was the entire brass section.  A Pied Piper beckoning across salt marshes, and even blaring over the bridges crossing the coastal waters to the Promised Land.

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

First order of the afternoon    

Take a seat on a dock and enjoy seafood and beer.  More accurately that would be BEER and seafood because you can’t really be a beach bum unless you can quaff a beer or two or three or more.

Second order of the afternoon

Change of clothing, which can be accomplished in the backseat of a car if a person didn’t plan the days clothing appropriately.  The low temps did alter my basic beach bum attire, which should have been flowery Hawaiian shirt, old jeans cut off mid shin and a floppy hat.  For the cooler weather on this trip the attire became, jeans (no holes), long sleeve t-shirt (faded), and my husband’s warm jacket.  I did manage no shoes, not even flip-flops, to wander down the sands of  Tybee Island.

The seagulls were the only wildlife out to ride the waves.  Even our teenagers hormones would not go far enough out to ride the waves; it was more like skirt the foam, talk and walk with only wet feet then finally for one minute go screaming knee deep into the surf  

 

Brrrr – Beach Bums should always be warm.  I believe there’s some kind of credo that says that.

My Preferred Adult Beach Beverage  

Although Jimmy Buffett popularized margaritas as a beach drink and there are those that like their alcohol with tiny umbrellas I prefer the old standard –icy cold beer.  It’s easy, no need for a blender or bartender.  Beer can be dark, light, domestic, imported or even homebrewed but at the beach the main requirement is frigid to the lips.

My Preferred Beach Bum Lunch     

Michael's She-Crab Soup at Croakers, Inc. at V...

A beach bum’s food needs to be as salty as she (he) is.  Here’s a perfect menu:

Oysters on the half shell; tasting of the briny deep

Shrimp, boiled and waiting to be peeled

A steaming cup of She-crab soup

Finally, more shrimp (did I mention I like shrimp?)

White boiled shrimp 白灼蝦

There’s Never Enough Time

Sadly my beach bum days were too short and it’s now back to daily life.  Now with visions of iced mugs and steaming platters of seafood dancing in my head I plan and plot my next trip back to the bum life.

The Wind is Whispering My Name - Beckoning Me Back

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Fried Pickles vs. Hostess Twinkie

The Battle

I’m not a nutritionist, far from it, but when it comes to a choice for snacking between fried pickles and a Hostess Twinkie I’m fairly certain the Twinkie is better for me.  In fact I’d guess in a toe-to-toe battle the Twinkie would leave the greasy green contender in the dust.  To be fair I decided to get the facts.

English: Fried pickles, an american dish in Li...

vs.

English: Hostess Twinkies. Yellow snack cake w...

The Background Info

First, if you have never had a fried pickle you haven’t experienced culinary genius.  Sure, there’s fried dough, fried candy bars, and even fried beer but for sheer lack of nutrition I am thinking nothing beats frying a pickle.  The first ones I saw were years ago in a barbecue joint.  Happily it’s far enough away I’m not tempted to go back: unfortunately there is something compelling about the need to eat fried pickles.

Yummy! Fried pickles, Dixie Cafe style. Arkansas

Everyone has their special take.  I prefer plain ‘ol fried hamburger dill chips but others like whole kosher pickles, some quarter the pickle into long spears and  just last weekend I had pickles that were thinly sliced lengthwise.  It’s your choice how you choose to ruin your body.

Back to the comparison.  It was hard to get a good nutritional take on fried pickles.  The numbers I got varied widely.  For instance calories: one website said 660 and another 174. I’m guessing a lot had to do with portion size but couldn’t really get a handle on what a good single size portion would be.  Personally I’ll eat whatever you bring to the table and call it a single size.    In an attempt to make this a semi-fair contest I’m using the smaller numbers.

The Caveats

  • Ranch Dressing seems to be the dip of choice for the pickles, that’s why I included those numbers
  • I used numbers that are assumed to be a single serving for both pickles and Twinkies – if you eat more than that – well that’s your weight problem
  • Protein in a pickle, really?  Where did that protein number come from for the pickle?  I can’t imagine where the protein is hiding, maybe in the breaded coating, but to be open-minded I looked at a couple of sources – they ranged from 0 to the 6 grams listed.  I used the higher number just to give the pickle a bit of help in this nutrition throw down.

 The Actual Comparison

Fat

Sodium

Carbohydrate

Fiber

Protein

Ranch Dressing

Fried Pickle

21

4

330

1221

3

30

0

2

1

6

Hostess Twinkie

4.5

220

27

0

1

RDA 2000 calorie/day

65

2400

300

25

50

 

Sadly, My conclusion

The pickle definitely wins in the Fiber category but even I can see the lack of wisdom in eating over ½ a day’s sodium just to get two grams of fiber; that is what carrots and oatmeal are for.  These are not numbers that would make a dietician jump for joy, more likely scream in despair, but it does appear that for a snack the Hostess Twinkie is the better choice of the two options; plus it costs less and is sold in a lot more locations.  It’s so sad because I do love fried pickles, even crave them, but apparently unless I want to die from extreme hypertension I need to avoid them at all cost.

Until next time – to the store for more Twinkies!  I must go!

Box of Twinkies



The Enigma Dessert – Angel Food Cake

To be honest until today I have never made/cooked/baked an angel food cake; never even considered doing it.  In fact I have a hard time actually slicing an angel food cake without smushing it from a light fluffy concoction to something resembling a pancake.

There are many questions surrounding this enigma known as Angel Food cake.

First:  why do I have an angel food pan taking up space on my limited kitchen shelving?  A gift? Part of an inheritance from some culinary minded relative? An impulse purchase at a yard sale?  I don’t know where it came from but there it sits, taunting me about my lack of baking skills.  If a pan could smirk this pan would be on the one.

When I was a child for family birthdays my mother always prepared homemade angel food cake.  That was our standard birthday cake; frosted with swirls of white and pink Royal icing.  There were no choices.  We knew exactly what the cake would look and taste like.  As an adult and reflecting on my youth I have begun to wonder why angel food was the birthday choice.  After all, today angel food cake seems rather an anemic relative in the bakery department.  Something you buy as an afterthought to slice and cover with strawberries or a chocolate sauce.  Today, an angel food cake offered as a birthday treat would be met with scorn.  Where’s the theme or fancy fondant decorations?  Is it a multilayer concoction created by a baking superstar?  No one oohs and ahhs if you show up with a smile and an angel food cake.

 A Bit of History

It’s time for a bit of historical culinary sleuthing.  I found several theories on the name; the most promising being that the name came about because it was so white and delicate, like angel’s wings.  I consider that one mystery answered to my satisfaction.

Since I have now discovered that other people’s mothers also made angel food cake for birthdays the 2nd mystery would be why it was a popular birthday cake.  That answer was easier to find than I anticipated.  Angel food cakes from scratch take 10 – 12 egg whites.  You have to love someone to put that much effort into a cake so it would have been a very special cake indeed; but by the mid-century (1950s) there were angel food cake mixes on the market.  A housewife could show off her mastery of what was considered a difficult cake to make by just adding water to the mix.

The Elephant in the dangling pan – the Real Enigma

What makes angel food cake an enigma though is what happens after you bake the cake.  Like baking a soufflé once it’s in the oven you have to creep about the kitchen so the final product will not collapse and will be light and fluffy.  Then the timer goes off and you grab this pampered dessert and hang the pan upside down; just dangling like a criminal in noose.  With any other cake that would be instant disaster. Miraculously this coddled confection stays in the pan for hours while it cools.  Who thought of that trick? Really, who thought that up? The cake just hangs around, tempting everyone who dares to walk by.  The secret: call it cake pan au natural.  It’s counterintuitive to everything taught in home ec and on cooking shows: you do not grease/spray or even flour the pan before the batter goes in.

My First Attempt at an Angel Food Cake

 I considered baking an Angel Food cake from scratch; even found the best directions ever at the Hungry Mouse’s website,  but as intriguing as that sugar cloud photo was it seemed like a lot of work so I settled for using my mother’s method; Angel Food Cake mix.  Apparently I still lack cooking skills.  I’m guessing that one side that semi-collapsed was because either my oven does not heat evenly or when I put the batter in the cake pan I somehow left an air pocket.  Oh well it does still taste great; even without my mother’s traditional Royal icing. Another change from my mother’s method was in the cooling method.  My mother used a Coke bottle; I substituted what was available in my kitchen.


Food for Tax Preparation

It’s tax time again – the time of year when I complain endlessly.  Ask any professional who has worked on our returns.  I spend half the time complaining about how I hate to do taxes and the other half confessing I have forgotten to bring x, y or (z)ero of the documents the preparer feels are essential.

Tax Preparation

Tax Preparation (Photo credit: agrilifetoday)

This year will be different.   I will not ask for an extension; I will even file long months before April 15. I will use comfort food to keep me going. There has to be food that makes the tax prep job easier and more palatable. I’m not even going to look on-line because I know what will be there: protein (lean protein), fruits, vegetables and plenty of water for hydrating.  Good for the virtuous organized people; they probably haven’t already lost their  W-2 before the end of January.

Finally it’s “TP” day – that’s Tax Preparation Day; really what were you thinking?

Here’s an overview of TP Day

Waffle House

Waffle House (Photo credit: The Suss-Man (Mike))

A quick scan of the list of items I’m looking for and then breakfast.  Waffle House Chili with extra McIlhenny Tabasco® Sauce sounds about right.  Plenty of saltine crackers and a few hamburger dill slices as a nod to my bodies need for vegetables.

Now to work, but hours later I find myself distracted by a Rugby match on TV and a scrum between who knows who.  Since I don’t have the vaguest idea what a scrum is and suddenly find it more interesting than last year’s receipts it’s obviously time to stop and have more brain food.

In the back of the refrigerator I can just glimpse the last remnant from the biscuit marathon but even on TP Day I am not that desperate.  Even the dogs aren’t their usual greedy selves and looked at the now very hard biscuit suspiciously too–but they still ate it.  They did demand a better snack in the future and longer walks as repayment for disposing of the biscuit.

A salad!  What a nutritious idea. Good for me!  Doing taxes and eating right.  A fiesta salad with extra Fritos®, grated cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos and yes, chili.  This should get the afternoon off to a great start.

Tax

And it did, the missing W-2 has   appeared and the junk drawer is a lot cleaner.

Finally It’s Done

Its dark outside and family members have been tiptoeing about all day.  Ok that’s not exactly truthful; most just left the house and now are starting to creep in and peep cautiously around the bedroom door.  It’s safe: I still have hair and nothing has been tossed out the window (or through it).  No destruction and I have found everything that’s on my list.  There will probably be something missing when I get to the professional but for now it’s done and I predict there will be a glass or two of wine in my future.  Does wine go with chili?  Guess it’s time to find out.

English: Oak wine barrels at the Robert Mondav...

Biscuits. Buttermilk vs. SunDrop Soda

Did you have SunDrop biscuits as a child? No; I didn’t either.  I never even heard of such a thing but after I was married Hubby insisted they existed.  I ignored him and continued on my buying bread at the grocery store ways.  Even though I did not make them I did know true southern biscuits were made with buttermilk.  My assumption was that his mother or grandmother had made those, in his mind, infamous SunDrop biscuits.

Family battles seem to rise and fall with the wind.  I don’t know what started this battle, perhaps seeing TV commercials for SunDrop soda; whatever the cause the “family discussion” started to heat up. The search was on for a recipe; there was nothing on the internet except for SunDrop cookies and cake (they sounded wonderful).  Hubby suggested, rather smugly, I try a few real “southern” cookbooks including one devoted to white trash recipes.  Nada.  Zilch.  I was feeling vindicated in my lack of knowledge about this particular bread product.

The more I searched the more he dug in that they existed; just substitute the soft drink for the liquid.  Finally, this week he admitted he had never had one but that Ralph Smith, years ago, on WBT-TV in Charlotte used to talk about them.  He vividly recalls Ralph saying “for a pan full of biscuits, add 2 bottles of SunDrop.”

So to prove him wrong I began a biscuit baking marathon this morning.  SunDrop vs. buttermilk.  If I had any interest in science I would explain to you why it’s important to have the right flour and why the ingredients need to be chilled but basically I could care less about any of that.  All I need to know is not “why” to use southern flour but that I must use it for the best biscuits. It’s written in stone somewhere below the Mason Dixon line that for the lightest biscuits you only use White Lily or Martha White.  Butter or Crisco, whichever you prefer, needs to be cold.  While staring at the Crisco can in the store I did discover that it’s trans-fat free.  Who knew?

One new thing I learned while searching for a basic recipe was to not handle the dough too much.  It’s not like kneading bread; with biscuits just fold over 4 or 5 times and then cut out those suckers.  The most confusing part of the recipe search was the oven temperature.  It seems everyone’s grandmother made the perfect biscuit and the recipes were similar but the temps varied from around 375/400 to 500 degrees.  That’s quite a range and I considered going with an average but While Lily came through.  As it turns out you just can’t beat the recipe they have on the back of their Self-rising flour.  500 degrees it was.

First batch, buttermilk.  Perfect

Second batch, SunDrop; equally as light but a slightly sweeter taste.  One family member suggested it might go great with an afternoon tea but not with eggs and bacon.  Can you tell which is which?

It appears Santa’s taste buds aren’t as refined as other family members.  He seemed to like both versions equally as well.

Third batch (why not, I still had flour and buttermilk).  Anyway, third batch was cheddar cheese biscuits topped with melted butter and garlic.  OMG! The recipe is on the White Lily bag too.  These are drop biscuits, the size determined by your idea of how big a tablespoon is.

I was ready to keep on baking and try out the cookie and cake recipes I had seen and then someone suggested yet another alternative for the SunDrop.  Who knew?