Getting ready for Hurricane Irma

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of that terrible September 11th. Some days it feels like yesterday; other days the shock and pain are overlaid by more immediate concerns.

I hope everyone was, is, and will be safe during the dangerous storms this hurricane season.

Two weeks ago, I got up at 2 am on Saturday to start a terrific vacation: A bucket list trip beginning in Seattle and driving to Vancouver, British Columbia. A ferry ride to Victoria, BC, to visit the Butchart Gardens and have afternoon tea before taking another ferry ride back to the States. Driving back to Seattle for our Alaska cruise with friends. My husband’s birthday during the cruise. The fantastic cruise, with sunshine every day.

This past Saturday I got up at 2 am to evacuate from Vero Beach, heading to (hopefully) safer ground at my brother- and sister-in-law’s home in The Villages.

Two weeks were the difference between the breathtaking and the heartbreaking. So soon after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, residents of Florida and everywhere else in the path of Hurricane Irma are battening down the hatches and heading out for safety. Reports of the destruction where Irma has already hit are coming in (I’m writing this early Friday morning), and it is epic.

We were cruising on the ship when we first began hearing that Hurricane Irma might hit Florida. In our group of eight, six live full-time and two live part-time in Florida. Husband had boarded up the house before we left, just in case. It was too soon to be worried.

That didn’t last long.

Our cruise ended on time Tuesday morning in Seattle. The six of us flying back to Florida on Wednesday got to the hotel and checked in for our overnight stay, headed back out for Seattle sights, and then back to the hotel for our early morning call for a 3:30 am shuttle to the airport for the return trip home.

Wednesday was our travel day, Thursday was supposed to be back to work.

But.

Hurricane Irma was taking a track projected to bring her straight up through Florida. The size of this hurricane would hit our city, no matter if/where it makes landfall.

The building supply company I work for closed at 5 pm on Wednesday, giving employees time to get their homes hurricane-ready, and to safe shelter in or out-of-state.

Instead of being in the office and catching up on the paperwork from my seven days on vacation, Thursday and Friday were spent packing pictures and other fragile belongings into protective plastic bins, doing laundry, and packing to go out-of-town again.

Our house weathered Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, Wilma in 2005. Could it, would it, make it through a stronger hurricane?

What do you take when you think you might not have anything left to come back to? Important papers; sentimental jewelry; clothes and toiletries for two weeks, in case that’s all I have to start over with. My laptop. My husband.

Lessons were learned from Hurricane Frances, when we were out-of-town for a wedding in Richmond VA, a few days in Buffalo visiting family, and a memorial golf tournament in Pinehurst NC honoring my father on what would have been his 70th birthday had he not died six weeks previously. We stayed with my stepmother for nine days after the golf tournament, coming back home after we knew we had power.

We were lucky, losing only some shingles from the roof, the back fence, and the refrigerator. Nine days without electricity were not kind to our refrigerator. Suffice it to say my husband spent four hours cleaning it out wearing a breathing mask, heavy-duty gloves, and using copious amounts of bleach. The refrigerator didn’t make it.

Plastic bags are now part of our frozen food prep. We put all the food in the freezer and the refrigerator into plastic bags. If we lose power, melting is contained and the bag is easily disposed of, as is any grossness resulting from foods not getting necessary refrigeration.

This is not just for hurricane prep, when we know we won’t have power. This is for daily containment in the case of an unexpected outage. Tip: freeze water in a small cup and put a coin on top of the resulting ice. If you come back home to find evidence of a power outage, check to see if the coin is now encased in ice. If so, it’s an indication that the cup ice melted enough for the coin to sink into it and re-freeze, and some frozen foods might not be safe to eat.

We’ll pack up what food we can take with us. There won’t be power for at least three days, since we’ll turn off the water and the breakers before we leave.

Why the breakers? There is a risk of fire from the power surge when the power comes back on after a major outage. It’s happened before in the aftermath of hurricanes, in our town. Safety isn’t just getting out-of-town, it’s also preparing for the return.

Be careful, be prepared.

Most of all, be safe.

Casarecce with Sautéed Tomatoes and Green Beans

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pint of various small heirloom tomatoes. I thought they would make a tasty sauce, and decided to sauté shrimp with the tomatoes and serve with rice and green beans. I only needed the shrimp and planned to buy it on my way home from work.

Enter torrential rain, just after work when I got into my car. Good news: I was dry in the car. Bad news: I had no intention of getting soaking wet to buy the shrimp. I thought about what I had at home and decided I could get by without stopping at the grocery store.

I scored in the pantry with a box of Barilla Collezione Casarecce pasta. It’s a long, twisted tube of pasta, and I thought it would echo the shape of the green beans. Since I already had the tomatoes and green beans. I could make this work.

Casarecce with Sautéed Tomatoes and Green Beans

1 box Barilla Collezione Casarecce (or other long tube pasta); Cook according to package directions; drain and dress with butter, salt and pepper; set aside and keep warm
1 pint tomatoes, cut into quarters lengthwise and seeded
1 bag Publix frozen steam-in bag green beans
1 1/2 t Garlic to taste (I used Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic)
1 T Parsley (I used Gourmet Garden lightly dried)
1 T Basil (I used Gourmet Garden lightly dried)
1 T Extra virgin olive oil
1 T Butter
2 T Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup pasta water

Cook pasta according to package direction; reserve up to 1 cup pasta water, depending on how loose you like your sauce.

While the pasta water is coming up to boil, heat extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan. Put the frozen green beans into the warmed oil, with salt and pepper. After the green beans are warmed through, add tomatoes. Heat through, and add pasta water in 1/4 cup increments. You want just enough water to keep the beans and tomatoes from sticking to the pan.

Add in garlic, parsley, and basil. Add butter, and toss all together. Add balsamic vinegar. Heat everything through, and add salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, plate the casarecce pasta. Put the green beans and tomatoes over the pasta.

This meal is easily rounded out with salad and bread; we had King’s Original Hawaiian sweet rolls on hand, and they were delicious with this dish.

Let me know what you think about this recipe!

Dark and Stormy Cocktail

I had my first Dark and Stormy when I was visiting Joanna Campbell Slan and she made drinks for us to enjoy on the back deck. The mix of rum and ginger beer was very tasty! And is there any better drink for two writers (“It was a dark and stormy…”)?

This week has been busy, between work, a day-long retreat for a non-profit board I’m on, and getting ready for vacation – sometimes it feels like it can’t come soon enough, and other times it feels like I’ll blink and be back home.

A Dark and Stormy sounded just what I needed to take the edge off a stressful week. I popped into the ABC liquor store, conveniently located to my bank, and lo! the ginger beer was front and center. The rum aisle was close by, and here I am with a drink by my side.

Dark and Stormy Cocktail

2 oz Dark rum

3 oz Ginger beer (NOTE: this is not the same thing as ginger ale, even though both are alcohol free)

Lime juice (Optional)

In a tall glass filled with ice, pour in the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice. Stir. Enjoy.

It doesn’t get any easier than this!

Enjoy summer’s last gasp, and have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

Pulled Pork Sliders

This past week has been a blur of working late and dinner on my own. My husband is moving into new office space and spent several weekday nights prepping and painting the walls. We had dinner to go from Olive Garden Saturday night, with leftovers for Sunday lunch.

August in Florida means the weather has been iffy, with a lot of late-afternoon thunder storms. We haven’t had pulled pork sliders in a while, so I thought having a lighter dinner after a big lunch would be good. This goes together fast when you use pulled pork that is already prepared; if you have leftover pork, shred it and heat it up with barbeque sauce. It’s delicious either way.

Pulled Pork Sliders

2 4-pack packages of Original Hawaiian sweet rolls, cut in half and toasted

1 1 pound package of pulled pork

1 or 2 slices of Swiss cheese, cut into roll-sized pieces (optional)

Bread and butter pickles, patted dry

Heat pulled pork according to directions (I bought a brand that was fully cooked and just needed re-heating; check package directions to make sure yours doesn’t need to be cooked through). Slice rolls in half and toast.

Put a piece or two of Swiss cheese on the bottom roll, add pulled pork, and top with bread and butter pickles. Pop the top roll on, and presto! You’ve got dinner.

I served them with mini sweet potato puffs, baked in the oven to cook. I put the rolls on the same pan for the last few minutes of their baking time, put the broiler on low, and toasted the rolls that way. I had two sliders (cheese) and my husband had four (no cheese). I’ve also served these with potato chips and cole slaw.

When the weather is hot and you don’t want to heat the kitchen up, pulled pork sliders are an easy dinner to make.