Masonboro Gather!

Monday, June 25, 2012

It was great to get on the water last week.  With a battle with Pink Eye (what a vicious disease), a challenging week, and bills to pay, the saltwater did me good.  Here are a couple pictures of my short escape!

Get outside!  (And, stay hydrated - it's HOT)!


Whole Foods - Perfect Snack

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

$36 Dollars:  Happy Mouth, Angry Bank Account

I had a V8 for lunch yesterday.  At 5:30 p.m. my growling stomach drove the rest of me to Whole Foods.  I wasn't just hungry, I wanted a sophisticated snack.  A snack that would make me look like I own a plane and have someone fly me to Bermuda every weekend.
I went to Whole Paycheck.  It was lovely.  I saw some friends, cruised the isles, and snacked on grapes and walnuts while I shopped.
I opt for a $6.99 bottle of wine, which was delicious.  A six pack of Peroni.  Conchorions with onions.  (I may have spelled that wrong.  I also can't say it correctly).  Made to order walnuts. Some parmesan. Some mozzarella (MOAZTZarella if you day it like Giada de Laurentiis).  How much did it cost me?  $36.92.  Receipt is below, but you can't see it because it is not in focus.  That's awesome.

A couple things about this transaction, experience, and snack enjoyment:

  • Harlene wasn't there.
  • It wouldn't have cost this much at Harris Teeter.
  • But, I wouldn't have been able to get what I got at Harris Teeter.  No conchoricons (I think I spelled that different than before), no made to order parmesan, no made to order walnuts, and no $6.00 mozzarella (3 nice size balls).
  • Harlene wasn't at Whole Foods.
  • It was pure joy to go to Whole Foods.  How many times have you thought that about grocery shopping.
  • Whole Foods wants to sell my scarves there, if I can get my cost down.
  • I was totally relaxed enjoying my spread of snacks.  And, finally, I had snacks that I was excited about! 
  • Harlene wasn't at Whole Foods.
Doesn't it look inviting?  Except for maybe the knife.

A new acquaintance of mine read my first post about Whole Foods and Harris Teeter and had the following comments to add.  She did all the work for me.  Food Lion is another good choice.  Here she sums up some great pointers about shopping at these three east coast staple grocery stores. 

"I like the HT vs. WF piece.  Those are my two primary places to shop. There is always an inexpensive fish, fruit, veggie, at WF if you know how to cook it.

I can tell you for sure that if you do all your shopping at Food Lion, your overall food expense is less, but the aesthetic really makes a difference. When I left my job to start my business, I cut back expenses drastically, and took notes to compare my staple items at FL, WF, and HT. Interestingly, some things were way more expensive at FL: half n half. But overall FL was less.

What I like about WF is being able to sit down and eat dinner there--indoors or out-- when I haven't had time to cook, and then go in and buy my staples. And I love the customer service, especially with buying wine and beer when I'm heading to a party. And even though HT has some good meat options, vis-a-vis more natural vs. full of hormones, not fed corn, etc,  WF has more good options along a continuum so there's usually something you can afford.

HT now has a starbucks so you can go get pre-prepared meals and eat them at starbucks, so that helps.

Bottom line, now that I have more $, I use HT and WF. (My cats turn up their noses at WF cat food, and egg whites and greek yogurt are way too expensive there, and omega 3 eggs are cheaper at HT). I don't use FL, but I miss FL-brand prunes: really good and moist.


My two cents!" - Amy N., Raleigh, NC

Thanks Amy for your insight!  I guess she doesn't have a Harlene in Raleigh.  Let me know what you think and happy shopping!


Summer Recipes - Straight from the Garden!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Squash Souffle and Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Onions in Vinegar; healthy, fresh, and delicious!

Fresh summer vegetables are the perfect thing to gather for any dinner.  And, both of the following recipes make great leftovers if you happen to have leftovers.

Squash Souffle is time heavy.  It's not necessarily difficult, but you must follow the steps and wait for the vegetables to cook, for the vegetables to cool, and must take the time to whisk certain ingredients to make it the best it can be.  If you don't have time to make the souffle, a great alternative is boiled squash and onions.  Just add salt and pepper and the nature flavors make this a delicious side to any summer meal.
One of my all time favorite summer meals is tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion salad.  From the picture to the left you may be able to tell that I peeled the tomatoes.  Personally, I love tomatoes peeled in almost every recipe I use them in.  All you have to do is boil water, add the tomatoes for approximately 20 seconds, run them immediately under cold water, and peel.  The tomato skin will peel off without a knife, although you most likely need the knife to get the skin moving.

Rarely are there any leftovers to these recipes, but with both dishes, the leftovers are even better!

Squash Souffle

  • 8 Squash (more or less depending on size)
  • 1 Vidalia Onion
  • 3 tablespoons Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 Eggs 
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese (which is usually one package), grated
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees.
  • Chop Squash and Chop Onion, boil until soft.
  • Drain vegetables and mash with a mashed potato utensil and let cool. 
  • Heat saucepan and add the butter.
  • Once butter begins to melt add flour.
  • While whisking begin to add milk in intervals to keep the flour from clumping.  Continue to whisk until everything is added together.  
  • Add squash and onion to baking dish.
  • Once the vegetables are cool, add two beaten eggs to them.
  • Then add shredded cheese.
  • Add butter, flour, and milk mixture - this should be thick and smooth.
  • Mix completely together and place in oven for 1 hour.
 This is a huge crowd pleaser.  Here is a visual of the steps and what it should look like:

Mashed Squash and Onion


Finished whisk and preferred consistency

Everything mixed in and ready for oven!

You will know it's ready because it will begin to brown on top.  It takes a full hour, so be patient!

Summer Vegetable Salad

This may be the simplest, healthiest, and easiest summer salad of them all.  All you need are fresh ingredients and all are easy to find during the summer months.  One of the many reasons summer is my favorite time of year, is because my favorite foods are in season.

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Vidalia Onions (or any onion you gather at the farmer's market or grocery store)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  •  Dice Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Onions
  • Mix together and add vinegar to the vegetables
  • Add salt and pepper to taste 
  • Marinate until ready to serve 
The longer it marinates, the better it tastes.  Hence, better leftovers!


You can find beauty in your neighbors yard!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My kind friend and neighbor let me pick the lovely purple hydrangea's and I added the sea urchins, by mistake!  I was making a summer salad with tomato's, cucumbers, and onions and I needed my bowl.  I, of course, was distracted, picked the hydrangea's, added the sea urchins, and with my glass of wine walked down the alley to prepare who knows what.  But, how lovely is this? 

You don't have to go far to gather and hunt what you can to inspire you, or at least make your home look like you spent hours decorating it!  And, it usually is always a mistake.  At least for me!


Gather your Dinner Tonight!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Clams - gather, cook, eat!  YUM!

Clams Casino: the Coastal Carolina Recipe (and the correct, best way to make Clams Casino)

Clam Fruition


Clams Casino is one of my favorite summer recipes!  It may even be one of my favorite foods.  Some people may disagree asking why you would put all those ingredients on the clams?  I can see this as a valid point.  And, my other favorite way to eat clams is raw with a healthy dab of horseradish.  Maybe that's my favorite summer recipe.  The only problem: clams are only good raw if they are very small.  If the clam is bigger than a 50 cent piece, you really want to cook them.  

The weather at Wrightsville Beach this weekend was wonderful; it should have been illegal.  It was perfect weather for hunting and gathering, especially with low tide in the middle of the day.  I only gathered about 8 clams, that's all I need for a meal - and I was the only one eating. 

I used my hands to find the clams, but I wouldn't recommend that.  You can get a clam rake at Craft American Hardware, Lowes, or Home Depot.  I kept the clams in salt water in a sheetrock bucket.  Make sure you do keep them in water.  Replace water depending on how long it has been since you gathered them.

Upon returning to the dock, I put the clams in a pillow case, tied a knot at the top, tied a boat rope around the knot, and dropped in the water about 3-4 feet.  I headed to Tower 7 for a snack and a beer while they sifted the mud out of their shell.  I left them in the freezer after retrieving them for a night.  Last night I shucked them and began to prepare the clams.  Leaving them in the freezer naturally opens their shell.  I still use a tea towel and a sharp knife.  Laying the tea towel in my hand first then the clam gives you extra protection from cutting yourself.  Even though the clams are open, they are still frozen, and require a bit of muscle power.  Take your time, and you shouldn't have any issues. 

A couple of the clams were monsters.  So, instead of putting the entire clam in one shell for the casino, I used half of the clam using used both shells.  More casino for me, and really these should be bite size, so it is much more managable this way. 

  • Clams
  • Onion
  • Ketchup
  • Horseradish (you want the raw horseradish, not the mixed creamed one; usually found in a refridgerated section.  If you are in Wilmington or Wrightsville, they have it at Motts Seafood).
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Bacon
Don't you love my William Shakespeare picture monitoring my progress?

Preparation - the ingredient amount are all an approximation; I tend to load my clam much like a baked potato, so test your preference and try different amounts to get your perfect clam.
  • Shuck Clam.  Depending on clam size use entire clam and one shell, or split it in two (if the clams are not frozen, splitting the clam is much more difficult).
  • Dice onion and add to the clam.
  • Add approximately a teaspoon of ketchup to the clam.
  • Add approximately a teaspoon of horseradish - I like more, but I like a little kick.
  • Grate cheese and add approximately a teaspoon.
  • Cut the raw bacon about 2 inches and place on top of the other ingredients.
  • Add to broiled oven and watch until bacon is crisp to your liking.

Here is what the pre-cook clams should look like.  All the goods are under the bacon.

Below is the Pre-Eat Casino.  I like my casino very crispy, so I broil until the bacon is well done.  

Happy gathering!  And, SOOOoooo tasty!

Hurricane Season can be the best!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Today I got to work on my business, which meant that I got to go shelling.  Masonboro Island is a gem of a barrier island, and ever since Beryl barreled through (witty joke I stole from Jim Cantore) Wednesday, I have been itching to check out the shells.  I headed out there mid day today- low tide was around 11 a.m. at Masonboro Inlet.

The sound side of Masonboro has great shells, but today I wanted to check out the ocean side.  I am so glad that I did.  It's interesting to see what a hurricane or tropical storm, depression, or sub-tropical storm will do.  (By the way, when did The Weather Channel start calling a tropical storm a sub-tropical storm.  I am sure it's legit, but anything that Jim Cantore tells me, I want to be incorrect so I can make fun of him).  It was obvious how Beryl's bands hit Masonboro.  All the shells were towards the north side of the beach - and it was a shell medley, sort of a shell landfill.  It was exciting!  My first shell was a sand dollar and my second, a perfectly whole conch.  Unfortunately, I did get there too late because many of the sea urchins and sand dollars were in pieces.  But, the key shells (technically Lettered Olives) were in abundance.  That is one strong shell.  Coral pieces, incomplete conchs, and baby's ears were also in abundance.

Take a look at my shell bounty!  And, remember to get out and shell after a storm, even before or after a full moon.  It's really an awesome experience to see what the ocean will produce, and each storm is different! 


I love hurricane season for this reason, but I would like to follow up with a plea.  Please don't send Wrightsville Beach, Masonboro Island, Figure Eight Island, or Bald Head Island (and vicinity) a hurricane that is a Cat. 3 or higher.  Anything lower is appreciated and welcome.  Thanks in advance because I can tell this hurricane season is going to be a doozy!

Happy Shelling!

Gather this: the BEST seltzer water ever!


I discovered Topo Chico while living in Texas.  It is the superior seltzer water.  Why?  Because it's the most crisp and the most carbonated.  And, I found where you can get it in Wilmington:

Los Portales Mexican Grocery

912 S Kerr Avenue
Wilmington, NC28403-4311
This Mexican Grocery has so much to offer.  Check it out and enjoy a nice crisp glass of Topo Chico!

Walmart now sells it too!  It is so refreshing!


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