Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - Shots and Thoughts

Here I am in this photo looking at and recording a small portion of my world. As my last post of this year I thought it would be fun to look through photographs I have on my laptop and pick a few out to post. I sure can't take any new ones today. It looks like we live in a cloud right now with all the fog outside.

Looking through the photographs also gave me opportunity to reflect - the photographs I have downloaded are still in the batches when they were shot - little remembrances of this past year - some bringing back good memories, some not quite as nice, but all pieces of my life.  Of course pieces of my family's lives also but I don't like to include them too much in this blog as they may be unwilling participants in that.

To start with, the shot below is one I took early in 2011 waiting on my grand girls at our designated meet spot, the Visitors Center in Pensacola at the foot of the 3 Mile Bridge.  We live in Gulf Breeze and they live in Pensacola so it's a good half way point to meet to pick them up for visits.

Entrance to Bayou Texar -
Pensacola, Fl.

The photo to the left was shot from the deck of my house sometime in 2011. The view is westward.

The photograph below is another westward shot, at sunset.

The flowers remind me of the spring and summer when the garden plants start to grow and bloom. It is always a source of enjoyment for me to see what's new. This past year was no different.

This sailboat photograph was taken down the street from my house after a few days of a tropical storm. This sailboat was anchored out in front of the house for 1.5 days but couldn't make it to the end and ended up here at Linden Avenue boat ramp.

To close this post - a sunset at Pensacola Beach during a few days off when I stayed on Pensacola Beach...walking quietly along.         I'm due for another one...:-)              Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Acadian - North and South

"Today, the five main concentrations of Acadian descendants are found in the Canadian maritime provinces, Quebec, Louisiana, New England, and France."
...but now there are a few in Pensacola/Gulf Breeze area to get access to delicious Florida oysters...

This past Thanksgiving I made my usual traditional meat stuffing*, a French-Canadian dish that was always on our table on the holidays, either at our house or at my grandparents' tables - Mémère and Pépère Chabot, or Mémère Bossé. I have made it year after year and it NEVER, EVER tasted like my Dad's - NEVER! It is the single most frustrating culinary goal I have. My boys love meat stuffing and they are always gracious about mine, as is my husband but they will admit if pressed that it is not like Pépère's - and so the quest continues...My parents are both French-Canadian and both grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, about 20 miles SE of Providence, Rhode Island. I remember growing up with  summer vacations and holidays there full of aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins and food, regional and ethnic during those trips.

So back to Thanksgiving's meat stuffing - I made too much and froze the extra. The stuffing was OK but it still lacked something. I was already thinking about what to do with it at Christmas, what I could do to spice it up a bit. My sister Michele was hosting the family Christmas Eve gathering this year and the theme was a Cajun Christmas. (She is the oldest of the twin girls, the last female birth in our family. The final child was my brother Bobby, the only boy in a family of 8 children.)  I had just been to New Orleans with my husband and we had eaten at a wonderful restaurant, Cochon's, where I ordered a Meat and Oyster Pie. The filling reminded me of our family's meat stuffing and I had decided then that I wanted to try to make Meat and Oyster Pie for Christmas. The party was the perfect opportunity to make myself do this and so this blog entry is that recipe, or as close to it as I can remember!

I started with the recipe for Cajun Meat and Oyster Pie below, and used it for my inspiration but I did not follow it to the letter. I always use Pillsbury Pie Crusts - found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store because they are good and I am a terrible pie crust maker.

I made the roux as directed as far as the coloring but I added more flour. I set the roux aside. I did not have green onions - I forgot them when I went to the store and I was not going to go back so I added a little bit more onion. I chopped up a green pepper, an orange pepper, a large onion, one elephant garlic. and parsley. I let them simmer in the oyster juice for about 10 minutes, then I added the oysters (I purchased at Joe Patti's, seafood house in Pensacola that you can always rely on for fresh seafood) and the roux and let them simmer about 15-20 minutes. I added salt and pepper to taste and some cayenne pepper.  While that was simmering I made one cup of short grain white rice. The meat stuffing was thawed. After the roux mixture cooled I added the meat stuffing and about 3/4 of the rice I had made, mixed together. And then I made the little pies shown below to take to the party and I made one whole pie to keep here at the house for my family.

My conclusion of this endeavor? I am very happy with the results with a few tweaks to the recipe planned -  a bit less oil in the roux and the green onion tops. It's kind of exciting to me to adapt the heritage I treasure to the area where I live and to create something of my own to pass on. Also, it might get me off the hook from all these years of trying to make meat stuffing like Dad's!

Merry Christmas!

Cajun Meat and Oyster Pie - (the inspiration for my pies)
 1/2 cup oil
 1/4 cup flour
 1 pound ground round
 1/2 pound ground pork -- lean
 1 large onion -- minced
 1 small bell pepper -- minced
 4 cloves garlic -- minced
 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
 1/4 cup parsley -- chopped
 1 pint oyster -- chopped/drained
 2 teaspoons salt
 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
 3 cups biscuit mix
 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
 1/8 teaspoon salt
 3 tablespoons shortening
 8 or 9 Tbs iced water
 Heat oil in skillet. Add flour. Stir until roux becomes dark brown.
 In another skillet brown beef and pork. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic,
 onion tops and parsley. Saute until vegetables are wilted. Add
 chopped oysters, salt and pepper to taste. Add roux and simmer on low
 heat 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside and cool. 
 Prepare pastry:
 Stir biscuit mix, red pepper and salt together with fork. Cut
 in shortening with pastry blender or 2 knives. Sprinkle water until
 dough can be worked into ball. Divide in half. Roll out very thin, cut
 into 3-inch rounds. Place 1 tablespoon meat filling in center. Fold
 in half.
 Crimp open edges together with fork. Bake on ungreased sheet in
 preheated 375F oven 20-25 minutes until golden brown. (Can also make 1

* - Below is my Dad's Meat Stuffing Recipe:

Place TWO parts ground beef to ONE part ground pork in pan
with just enough water to cover the meat and simmer one hour.

Add finely chopped onion and garlic cloves to taste and
simmer another two hours. Somewhere along the line season 
with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning to taste.

Shut off and let it sit for awhile to cool and for the fat to settle at 
the top. Then skim off the fat and thicken with bread crumbs. 

To skim the fat a good way is to push a fine strainer down a bit 
at the top of the pan and siphon off the fat and some liquid with 
a baster. There should not be much visible water in the pan 
when you start with the bread crumbs. It should just be a pretty 
wet meat mixture. Baked at 350 degrees until set, or stuff turkey with.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where is Wisdom?... and Understanding

I read in the paper yesterday that Christopher Hitchens has passed away. It has only been in the recent weeks that I even knew who he was. I stumbled across his essay Tropic of Cancer  in The Best American Essays 2011. The essays were compiled by Edwidge Danticat, a favorite author of mine, and so I picked the book up off the table of New Arrivals at Barnes and Nobles and headed for the comfy chairs to read through it to determine if I would purchase it. Tropic of Cancer was a surprise. To the best of my knowledge it was originally published in the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair.  I found it so well written that I was very intrigued by this author. When I got home I googled the man. To my surprise and disappointment, I found that he was a very vocal atheist. You see, I have a problem with that in an evaluation of what is truly brilliant, or great, or even wise and what is really the true value of anothers opinion or art. What I put my time and effort to is important to me and I want it to count for something. When I read about Picasso's life I found that he was cruel, and mostly to family members. That devalued his artistic skills in my eyes. Hunter Thompson, a man I found to be a true original, at least at first, I can only question the value of his opinions in the last part of his career due to his violent end. That also is my opinion of Ernest Hemingway. I don't know what that opinion of mine says about myself but that is not the issue here or my purpose in writing this. Why I am writing is my own effort to sort through the skill of the man which I found to be great, and what is truly as I wrote earlier, brilliant and worthy of my time.

In writing this I quickly bogged myself down with what words of my own I would or could use to argue that to have no belief in God was actually the opposite of brilliant, or great, or wise. My point of view or attempt to articulate that was feeble, very feeble especially in light of Mr. Hitchen's considerable writing skill. But then I recalled a favorite passage in Scripture, chapter 28 in the book of Job. And so I am ending this with that passage because it says what I mean much better than I ever could.

Job 28

Interlude: Where Wisdom Is Found

 1 There is a mine for silver
   and a place where gold is refined.
2 Iron is taken from the earth,
   and copper is smelted from ore.
3 Mortals put an end to the darkness;
   they search out the farthest recesses
   for ore in the blackest darkness.
4 Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,
   in places untouched by human feet;
   far from other people they dangle and sway.
5 The earth, from which food comes,
   is transformed below as by fire;
6 lapis lazuli comes from its rocks,
   and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
   no falcon’s eye has seen it.
8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
   and no lion prowls there.
9 People assault the flinty rock with their hands
   and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
10 They tunnel through the rock;
   their eyes see all its treasures.
11 They search[a] the sources of the rivers
   and bring hidden things to light.

 12 But where can wisdom be found?
   Where does understanding dwell?
13 No mortal comprehends its worth;
   it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”;
   the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
   nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
   with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
   nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
   the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
   it cannot be bought with pure gold.
 20 Where then does wisdom come from?
   Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
   concealed even from the birds in the sky.
22 Destruction[b] and Death say,
   “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
23 God understands the way to it
   and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
   and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
   and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
   and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
   he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to the human race,
   “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
   and to shun evil is understanding.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Orleans at Night

The Night

You slept with me
last night
(I was so glad)
curled up,
not moving much.
The moment you came
and laid down
I knew your presence,
it stroked my heart
and I slept.
When I awoke
I stayed perfect-ly quiet
to keep you
from waking up to go.
Did my heart beat?
Was I breathing? - I was so still.
Slowly I rose up,
on my side of
this particular bed
and without looking
at you.
I went to the day
leaving you behind
to come
and go...
in the night.