Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Paying it Forward" Anyone want some exotic items from The US VIRGIN ISLANDS???

Have you all heard of the "Paying it Forward" foodie exchange program? That's where a foodie blogger receives a food package from a blogger friend. A month or so ago, my good friend Velma from the TOMATOES ON THE VINE blog selected me to receive a package of foods from Florida. I got some locally produced hot sauce, flavored oils, spices, Georgia Pecans, some terrific grilling skewers and lots more! See the photo above for what I got!

Whoo Whoo Freebies! I loved it!


I promised to "pay it forward", and offer the same deal to my blogger friends. That is, I will select three bloggers who respond to this idea in my comment section. I will send you a box full of fun local ingredients (nothing fresh, no fruits or veggies, not sure what is legal and safe, so only sealed items). I have discovered that the US postal system works the same down here, meaning I can send a "flat rate" box for $10.95 to the states. If you live any where else, meet me half way and agree to pay any additional shipping costs beyond $10.95 US (I take Paypal). But if you live in one of the 50 states or apparently any of the territories (like the US Virgin islands), the shipping and ingredients 100% are on me! It's my turn to pay it forward!

But, you in turn have to promise to pay it forward as well. At some point in the future, you need to do the same thing. That is offer to three of your readers a chance to receive a package of goods from your area. Sure, in the short run, you are losing money, but isn't part of being a foodie sharing the exotic ingredients and creations we are proud of. I am proud of my new home, and can not wait to share with my friends. When I was in Kansas, I could easily have found Kansan specialties. Same for my time in NYC, and everywhere else I have lived. What is local and common place to you is an exotic ingredient to other parts of the country

I am going to start looking... I have seen a locally made hot sauce (actually, I have smelled it, the guy is a local legend, and he cooks a batch up every month. He lives just down the hill from my home away from Kansas and it makes the whole area smell like a BBQ joint! There are also chocolates made here, maybe some dried spices, Rum ball cansies and Cakes... Heck, Why not some Rum... Not sure what you will get, but you will get a box full of a dozen or so different items.

So, as long as you are willing to play along and pay it forward, drop me a comment that you want to sign up. I will be in touch.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spinach Salad - Peppers, Onions, Poached Eggs and Walnuts

Last night was a vegetarian meal for us. Something nice and cool, filling and healthful. It also was an excuse to use up a lot of what I had in the fridge.

As I have said, I am living in temp housing till we find a permanent spot. Over the weekends, Jackie is off work and we are going to "move" to a beach resort so she gets a chance to enjoy island life. What could possibly be wrong with that plan???

Well, the down side is that all that expensive ingredients I bought this week now have to either be thrown away or given away. We have to pack up, store our luggage so the good folks that run our home away from Kansas can rent to someone new for two days.

Here's what I came up with to empty the fridge and create something from not much...

Poach an egg... There is NOTHING better than a poached egg on a spinach salad. Cut into it and the yellow oozes out... YUM!

Saute some peppers and onions... I tried something new to me... I had some honey sitting on the shelf. thought, why not and added a couple tablespoons of honey to the saute pan. Made a nice contrast. Don't over do the sauteing. I like to have a little crisp to the veggies in my salad, so the honey sweet, the raw onion taste and the crisp peppers made a nice combo of flavors.

Eggs on the spinach!

Line the edge of the salad with the sauteed vegetables.

Top with some walnuts...

And a little bottled Italian dressing and this is what we had to suffer through.

Have you noticed a trend here??? A little healthy eating, and walking everyday (see my "Sister" blog, DAILY PHOTOS IN ST THOMAS to see where I walk and what I see). Going to use my time on the island to improve my quality of life (Quality of life sounds so much nicer to say than "Lose my big fat ass")

Oh yeah, I am also going to ...

Sun and swim
and snorkel and scuba dive
and island hop
and drink and eat exotic things!

Friday, February 26, 2010

GRILLED Onion/Pepper Mozzarella Pie with Tomatos and Lime Zest Salt

Whoop Whoop... Just as good as it looks! Nothing outstanding here, but it sure did make a pretty presentation...


, don't tell but it does not look like I wanted.

I made these that first night I had a chance to grill... you all remember Raspberry Chipotle Cajun Spiced Shrimp???

Nothing special or difficult here, Cut some onion slices, rub with a little oil... Cut some Red Bell Pepper slices and also rub with oil.

Grill over indirect heat on a hot grill.

OK, here's what I wanted
to happen... Individual servings, One onion slice, one red pepper slice, a slice of mozzarella cheese, an ungrilled tomato and the sal/zest.

Now, normally the trick is to insert a toothpick into the slices and that holds them together while you grill. I did not have any toothpicks. SO, when I flipped the onions, 3 stayed together, 1 fell apart. So, on to plan B.

A layer of the onions (I broke up all the rings, so I had grilled, onion rings (no breading) on the bottom of the plate). I added a layer of the red peppers and topped that with the cheese. I set the plate inside the grill turned off the burner underneath and the residual heat did a nice job of melting the cheese.

I topped the cheese just before serving with cold tomato slices

And once I sprinkled a bit of 50/50 mixture of lime zest and salt (thanks to Bobby Flay for that idea), it made a great presentation. I sliced like you would an apple pie.

Plated the slice of "pie" with a couple of shrimp skewers and some rice.

And a bit of catching up, A while back, I blogged of my cooking experiences with Marthe from her blog, CULINARY DELIGHTS. I had cooked a couple of her recipes for Taste and Create. That's the cooking exchange program I blogged about HERE.

Marthe chose to cook my Flowered Apple Pie. Stop by her blog post HERE to see what she did with my version of the recipe...

Great job Marthe!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Raspberry Chipotle Cajun Spiced Shrimp! ISLAND GRILLING (finally)

I have not grilled since New year's Eve (Moink Balls). There is a grill on the property I am living on, but we have had late nights getting started cooking, so last night was my first island grilling experience. This is an old city, lots of wood, and almost no US style infrastructure for fighting fires. So it is discouraged to grill once it gets dark. But, as I said, last night we planned a little better and it was my time to cook. Nothing special,

One of the things I brought from home was a bottle of the
handcrafted one jar at a time, THE ORIGINAL ROASTED RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE SAUCE (that's what the bottle looks like, next to the autographed picture of me with Bernadette Peters... I only brought the sauce, not the signed photo). I have made no secret of my love for the sauce. Even when I used up the freebies they had sent, I found a store in KC where I could buy it. For the cynics among you (Buffalo Dick), Isn't the fact that I bought a bottle and hauled it 1,500 miles to be a part of my first island cook a testament to what I feel about the taste... If you see some... BUY SOME! (and then mail me a bottle, I am sure it is not here, and I will be out soon).

But I digress...

I also added some of my home made Cajun spice mix I had brought from home, little pepper (OK, a lot of pepper), Cinnamon, garlic, and more... will do a post on my mixing recipe soon).

mixed well. Even though it looks like I used a frying pan to cook them, in fact, it was just to mix in... I have very limited amounts of cooking supplies, so everything is doing double duty.

Pop the little beauties on some wooden skewers that I had soaked in water for about 30 minutes.

Grill... Direct heat for 3 minutes per side. I added a bit of lime zest and kosher salt mix.

I grilled an onion, red pepper mozzarella "pie" that I will blog about tomorrow (topped with some sliced tomatoes).

Plated the shrimp with a slice of the "pie" and some rice.

And of course, I made enough to party with our new friends...

Left to right, Suzie, manager of the property I live at, Monica, our neighbor in the unit next to us, Bill, Co-manager with Suzie (and her husband) and Jackie. Notice all the liqueur bottles. We enjoyed a bottle of white, bottle of red, a bit of 151 rum (hic), and not sure what it is that Bill had for us at the end, but I am sure I drank some!

I hear that much of the East Coast is getting socked by a late winter storm...

Will try to find a bit of time to worry about you all...

Really I will...


have you ever been lied to by a man?

Stay warm and safe!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ANADAMA BREAD - Bread Baker's Apprentice

OK, the challenge has been accepted. I will be trying new island recipes, and new ingredients when possible, but also I plan to continue my progression as a learning cook. I promised myself on New Year's Eve that I would be trying to learn more as a bread baker, and if possible to cook through the "Bread Baker's Apprentice - Mastering the art of Extraordinary Bread" book. I brought three cookbooks with me to my island adventure. The "Bread Baker's Apprentice" book was one. I considered waiting to start till I moved to a larger kitchen (one of our priorities in island shack hunting). But, as I learned from some of the comments when I did my Virgin Island kitchen reveal, many New Yorker's live with this size kitchen every day and will never be able to cook in a larger kitchen. And besides, a loaf of bread was WAY too expensive.

SO... yesterday, I made the first recipe for ANADAMA BREAD. Actually, when I say yesterday, I mean I started the day before yesterday in preparation for baking. You use a "starter" in this recipe. The book has a nearly 100 page tutorial on basic bread baking concepts before you even see a recipe (he calls a formula). While most recipes will use a commercial yeast, his goal is to reduce the amount that you use. A starter is a way to "grow" a living yeast culture and allow the breakdown of starches to improve the flavor of the bread.

I started with 6 ounces of Course ground CORN MEAL, mixed with 8 ounces of room temperature WATER. I am living in a "stocked" kitchen. But there are no mixing bowls. I do have a resident manager that is very generous to let me borrow stuff. But today, I used a sauce pan to mix the starter. It had a lid, so I followed the instructions to cover with saran wrap (the lid), and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

The next morning (mid day actually), I mixed 2 cups of unbleached FLOUR, only 2 teaspoons of INSTANT YEAST, The Corn meal and water mixture (the SOAKER) and one cup WATER. I miss my Kitchenaid, but I made due and stirred, stirred stirred til well mixed. I covered the bowl with a towel and allowed it to ferment for one hour, till the sponge begins to bubble (a sign the yeast is working by creating gases). If you double click on the image to the left, the magic of the Internet will make it bigger and you can see the bubbles.

At that time, add 2 and 1/2 cups more FLOUR, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons SALT and 6 tablespoons of MOLASSES and 2 tablespoons of BUTTER. And, here is where I really miss the Kitchenaid, as it would be easy to let the hook do the mixing and kneading. But, by hand it was to be.

Stir until the ingredients form a ball, add water if needed to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.

Sprinkle flower on a work surface and start kneading by hand. keep adding flour as needed to make a tacky but not sticky dough the dough should be supple and pliable, but definitely NOT sticky. It will take at least 10 minutes of kneading (more for me, and nearly an additional cup of flour).

But, it can be done.

And here's the proof!

Lightly oil a bowl and move the dough to it. Roll the dough to coat and cover the bowl and allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size...


Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into two equal portions. Form the dough into loafs and place into prepared, oiled and floured bread pans. Coat the tops with a small amount of additional oil, and loosely cover the tops with a towel.

Allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 additional minutes, until the dough crests above the tops of the pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the oven rack in the middle.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the center of the bread registers at 185 degrees (nice to be a griller, with an instant read remote prob attached thermometer).

When the loafs reach temperature, remove from oven, and immediately remove from pans and allow to cool.

And here is where I went off book a little...

I brushed a very thin layer of molasses on the top of the bread.

I ground up some walnuts in a mini chopper to just slightly bigger than dust...

But not much.

The book says to spray the top of the loafs prior to baking with water and sprinkle more corn meal on the top.

I thought (yes, this is my own concoction... sorry to the purists, but I figure I lost purists long ago), the extra sweetness on the top crust from the extra thin layer of uncooked molasses, combined with the extra nutty taste of the walnut dusting would make an extra treat...

It did!

I did add just a small dusting of corn meal as well.

We enjoyed a slice for breakfast with butter. This is a very dense bread. The corn meal makes the bread grainy, like a multi grain loaf of bread. The sweetness of the molasses shines through in every bite... But it especially shines through on the top with the extra raw molasses and walnut dust.

Bottom line... The bread has a full earthy rich taste. I liked it a lot, but... The bread is a little pricey to make... Corn meal on the island is expensive, so unless I were making polenta and had some left, unlikely that I would make this again. The molasses I seem to use quite a bit, so I would have some of that on hand. Adding both of those "extra" flavorings to the bread, as well as the walnuts made the 2 loafs at least $10. Still, better and cheaper on the island than to buy two loafs of "wonder" bread type loafs, and much cheaper than buying a specialty loaf from an island baker.

1 formula down, and 200 pages of recipes in the book to follow!



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

PIZZA - BBQ Chicken and Shrimp! My first cook on the Island

We are settling in nicely. Jackie likes her job, and the people she works with. She has a GREAT office, right on the shoreline, with an incredible three window view of the harbor. Everyday, she will know that we ain't in Kansas any more.

Lots of you left nice comments yesterday, and I will try to address a few questions or comments from there.

We do not have a permanent place yet. We are staying in a boutique hotel called the Green Iguana. We have a one bedroom place with that kitchen I showed yesterday. It is very nice, convenient and a great place to stay for a week. BUT, I seriously doubt if we will be staying here for the entire time on island. Just too small. we have 30 days to find a more convenient sized location. We will be looking for places along the beach. Larger, something where we can entertain and can have family and friend from the states come visit.

So, for the time being, I am walking the city every day and seeing what I can see. To the left, you see a link to my Daily Photo blog. I am treating that as a visual scrapbook. details about what I see each day. I figure if I post daily for 6 months on that site, at the end I will get a pretty good idea of what we saw and what is on the island. So, at least for this week, no shots of me in a speedo yet. you are welcome.

Jackie has the weekend off, so I am sure we will go to the beaches then.

Here's the first meal I made in my tiny kitchen...

Pizza dough. I have done a couple of posts about pizza. I used the same recipe that I posted HERE...

It worked very well.. As usual!

I have access to a grill, but did not get started til after the dark. I am not clear if it is a law, or just highly suggested, but I was told it was not a good idea AT ALL to grill at night. We are surrounded by wooden buildings, and the danger of fire is very high. Once it starts, you run a strong risk of whipping out hundreds of years of history. So...


I set the broiler in the oven, and stretched out the dough on a slotted baking pan. I used olive oil and generously coated the dough and the pan... broiled for 10 minutes.

Flipped the dough over, and added the sauce and mixins'

I did fake it a little, I used some spaghetti sauce from a jar (sorry), instead of making my own. But, I added some shrimp and chicken, mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese, and drizzled on some BBQ sauce I had brought from home.


We have gotten to know our hosts in our little 8 suite hotel. A wonderful couple, Bill and Suzie. I made two and invited them to dinner... So, the party hosting has already started!

That's me, serving Bill... Anyone notice something different?

Monday, February 22, 2010

We Made it!!! And a Kitchen Reveal

We are here! I now live in the US Virgin Islands, Island of St Thomas, and for the time being, we live in the capital city of Charlotte Amalia.

I have so much I want to remember and to tell, I have decided to set up a couple of sister blogs specifically about my time on the island. I was jealous of those bloggers who had decided to post a photo a day for the entire year. I have set up a site that will have very little commentary, but will feature a different set of photos every day from my adventures til I have to go home to Kansas...

Already has a couple of posts up, so take a visit there and live the island life for a few minutes a day! On this site, there will not be much (if any) food info, just things I see when I go about my Moondoggie lifestyle.

Has my first post up. First morning on Island, we found a local farmer's market. I posted lots of photos and gave just a few little glimpses of what I learned so far about cooking and food shopping on the island.

If you visit the sister sites, drop me a note so I know if you like the new system.

I am going to try to keep this blog (Year on the Grill) as more of a cooking blog with recipes and instructions that only superficially will have to do with the Virgin Island location. The "Foodie in the VI" blog will have posts specifically about my foodie adventures that have to do with the specifics of cooking and eating on the island. I will probably update each of the three blogs daily, trying to do this one last so I can link to the sister blogs to try to peak your interest.

Today I am going to give you a kitchen reveal. We are not positive about where we will be staying for the next 6 months, but probably we will be living in this one bedroom with separate kitchen apartment for the next 30 days.

It is generous to say it is a separate kitchen,

I have a microwave, full size oven and electric burners.

Single sink with very low water pressure. This is the total size of my counter space (above photo and below). So kneading bread is a challenge.

Total size of the kitchen fits me... no cooking in pairs.

I have been shopping, and I ran into a farmer's market. so I have some foodstuffs to get started... gonna see a lot of shrimp recipes.

Full size refrigerator which is actually rare on the island in the type of place we are renting now. Usually people come to these places for a week only and go out to eat every night. So most just have a fridge to store water bottles.

Like I said, we have been shopping... Bananas, Plantains and 2 kinds of Rum. A bottle of rum is cheaper than the same size orange juice.

A nightly glass of pineapple juice and rum to start end the day on our balcony has become our tradition.

Tomorrow I will tell you about my first cook in the new digs... a BBQ shrimp and chicken pizza.