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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Foodie Friday Pan Seared Chicken with Kalamata Olives .......................

This is an easy "go to" meal.    The olives give it a little tang.     We are fortunate to have olive carts in the grocery stores here so I'm able to get really good kalamata's.    Most  stores have canned kalamata's you could use, though.

Pan Seared Chicken with Olives

Total Time:    1 hr 35 min        Prep:    40 min     Yield:   2 servings

·         Two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
·         1/4 cup oil, plus more for searing
·         2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
·         Kosher salt

Pan Sauce:
·         1  cup grape tomatoes, halved
·         2 teaspoon finely sliced fresh basil,
·         Kosher salt
·         Extra-virgin olive oil, if needed
·         1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
·         1/4 cup sherry vinegar
·         1/2 cup chicken broth
·         1 tablespoon mustard   (I use jalapeno mustard, but your favorite will work)
·         Additional chopped parsley and basil for garnish and the rice.

For the rice,  use half chicken stock and half water.     Add some of the same herbs you used in the recipe as well as salt.     Cook per your directions.

For the pan sauce:    In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil; season with salt  and toss to combine. Set aside.

For the chicken:    Using a meat mallet, evenly pound the chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thickness.  Put the chicken into a heavy resealable bag.    Add the oil, parsley, salt and mix in the bag  until the chicken is coated in the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Using a colander, pour the chicken mixture in over the sink and let the marinade drain off.     

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large (12- to 14-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.   Add the chicken breasts being sure to space them out in the skillet. (Avoid over-crowding, or you won't get a good sear.)   Sear until light golden on the first side, 3 to 4 minutes.    Flip and sear on the other side until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.   Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Reserve the skillet for the sauce.

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet.    (Or, if the skillet is dry add more oil to make about 1 tablespoon.)   Over medium heat, add the olives and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.   Add the vinegar and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet.   Whisk in the chicken broth and any pan juices the chicken released on the platter and bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half.   Stir in the mustard, add the seasoned tomatoes and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute; season with salt if needed.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken on the platter, garnish with chopped herbs.

Serve with cut up fresh asparagus, (peel the bottom half)  that are cut into large pieces.     Put a bit of olive or coconut oil in a skillet and cook the asparagus for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.    Should be slightly crunchy.     Salt lightly and serve.

The asparagus wasn't looking too good today for the price, so I did broccoli tonight.     Preparation is the same.     I think a green vegetable looks good on the plate with the red tomatoes.      Enjoy .......................

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Neon Museum

We'd never taken a tour of the neon sign graveyard.   I'm so glad our friends from La Crescent suggested going.    It is now officially a museum with a guided tour to explain the history and stories behind many of  these old signs.    This place really is a graveyard (or junkyard) of old neon signs and in many cases, pieces of neon signs.     A few of them actually still work and are lit for evening tours.       How many of these do you remember?

An old Sahara's sign, but also the Horseshoe from Binion's.

The Binion's Horseshoe Hotel and Casino opened in 1951.     Benny Binion was an American gambling icon and mob boss.      After his death in 1989 the family removed the "Horseshoe" part of the casino's name to update it's image.

The Silver Slipper (which opened in 1950) didn't use words in their sign, just a huge silver slipper.   This casino was located on the grounds of the Last Frontier Village along the very early Las Vegas Strip.     This one is now in front of the museum.

I hope the Frontier's sign was more interesting when it was lit.      It's pretty bland just sitting there!

The style of lettering was typical of  "The Jetson's" era.

This colorful sign was for a very short-lived car dealership.

This sign was a very early one from The Golden Nugget.     That yellow blob in the middle depicts a gold nugget.      The numbers "1905" showcase the year Las Vegas was founded.

The El Cortez was another old popular casino.

I didn't hear the story about this larger than life pool player.    I'm guessing he was about 12 feet tall.

This museum/graveyard is a popular place for movies and TV shows, including a "date site" for an episode of this years The Bachelor reality show.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Incredible Super Bloom


Death Valley is famous as the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The world record highest air temperature of 134°F was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. Summer temperatures often top 120°F in the shade with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F.  Average rainfall is less than 2 inches a year, a fraction of what most deserts receive.

Death Valley is not usually known for the beauty of it's flowers.    After all, it's all sand, rock and salt combined with windy conditions.   Seeds can sit dormant for a decade or more just waiting for the right combination of rain and heat.

The last "super blooms" occurred in 1998 and 2005.  The alluvial fans, hillsides, valley floor, and washes were covered with solid carpets of flowers that went on for miles and miles.  In a normal springtime there will be scattered flowers here and there, but during a super bloom, almost every possible place a flower can grow, it will.     It totally transforms Death Valley into a valley of life.       A super bloom is beyond all your expectations.     They are quite rare, maybe once a decade or so.

RJ and I took a day trip to Death Valley this week to experience this Super Bloom.       We went down one road for 47 miles in utter awe.   (We would have gone further but the road was washed out from the rain earlier this month - the flowers continued)

You can see the distant highway in the upper middle of this shot.    It gives you some perspective of the sheer vastness of this particular field of flowers.

You can see the fields of flowers on the distant foot hills.     There is no way to describe the sheer beauty of seeing so much life in this seemly barren land.     The rangers say that not only are there vast fields of flowers, the plant sizes are much larger than normal.

Some areas are more lush than others.

RJ decided to hike out a ways - did you recognize him?

As far as the eye can see in these foothills are shadings of yellow.     You can't see the vast amount of white flowers (and purple) but they are there.

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures of this rare occurrence.    We will probably go back in a couple weeks - reports say that what we saw was just the start of the super bloom.     Unreal ..............

Wildflowers: Desert Gold (Geraea canescens), Notch-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), Caltha-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia), Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes), Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla), Bigelow Monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii), Desert Five-spot (Eremalche rotundifolia)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Foodie Friday - Lotus of Siam

RJ and I have been reading about this restaurant and decided today was the day to try it.  We plugged the address into Miss Garmin and away we went.     What we find is a block long building with a few unmarked doors.    Bummer.   One article we read said it was hard to find and was in a non-descript strip mall.    This area is off The Vegas Strip about a mile and in a somewhat run down part of town.  Before giving up, we decide to go around the block and try again.    That long building is actually the back side of the strip mall.      Weird, but at least we have found the restaurant.

The inside of this restaurant is in sharp contrast to its location.     Upscale but casual.    Immaculately clean and the staff are friendly but professional.     We decide to order a couple Thai beers, which I'm pretty sure I had on my 2006 trip to Bangkok.

Saipin Chutima is the owner and Chef.        Before the 2011 James Beard Award for Top Chef in the Southwest and the Gourmet Magazine review, Lotus of Siam was a small little hole in the wall located in the commercial center in Las Vegas.    In November 1999 Chef Saipin and her husband Bill took over Lotus of Siam.    Since then, Thai food has become an adventure for those willing to step out of their comfort zones for Asian Cuisine.

Chef Saipin's distinct cooking has been passed down from generation after generation, from both her grandmothers and her husband's grandmothers.    Her northern style cooking has opened America to the "Northern" world of Thailand, away from the Bangkok style of sweet and tang.   The northern menu consists of hearty herbs and spices, along with Thai style stews and coconut-less curries.    Through her menus, guests can dine and enjoy recipes from over 100 years in the Chutima family.

You could sit for an hour looking over the menu.    Everything looked intriguing.

RJ found an entry that had the words "Not Spicy" in parenthesis, so he knew what he was getting.   It was called Thai Style Spaghetti - pan fried egg noodles in a special sauce with eggs, chicken, shrimp and tomatoes.   He enjoyed it, but I forgot to get a picture.  (sorry).

I'm not one to shy away from spices, so I chose:

KANG KA NOON   (Spicy Young Jack Fruit Curry).      Here's the description:     For those of you who love the texture of the heart of artichoke and spicy food, have we got a dish for you.    This northern style curry is made of young jack fruit chunks.  The dish is cooked in a northern style curry base, fresh and dried spices with pork, chicken and smoked sheet-fish flakes.

An order of sticky rice and I thought I was set until the waiter asked how hot I wanted it on a scale of 1-10.    I settled on 7-8.    Sure glad I didn't say 10 !!!    Actually, it was perfect for me, although my eyes did water a little.

This was our second beer - we shared, although I preferred the Chang.....

You very seldom get to enjoy the food of a James Beard awarded chef and certainly not at such a very reasonable price.   I am so glad we tried it.     Can't wait to try something else!

I don't have the external hard drive with me for my Bangkok pictures, but I will share them at a later date.    What an incredible trip that was .......

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A bit of Downtown...........

It's Friday afternoon - what's better than a couple hours at the outlet mall.    Apparently most of the visitors to the city thought the same thing because it was packed.     I've never had to park on the top floor of the parking garage before!    It did give me an opportunity to take in the views, though.     This first photo highlights a famous Frank Gehry building - the Lou Ruvo Center for Mental Health.   It came in at $80 Million - that breaks down to $1,311 a square foot - 3 to 4 times more than normal! It's been featured in almost every architectural magazine.    The Downtown Las Vegas skyline serves as the backdrop.

To my right is a view of the Las Vegas Strip with the Stratosphere on the left.     It is Friday of Super Bowl week-end - if you look carefully you can see several jet trails circling the airport.

The one story buildings in the forefront are the Outlet Mall.     The white tents are open areas with a break from the desert sun.     Yes, I hit both Coach and Michael Kors.   What's a woman to do when faced with so much temptation............

After dinner at Pizza Rock, we did an early evening stroll down Fremont Street, just in time for the overhead show.      A patriotic tribute to our wonderful country.  

Hope you are ready for the big game tomorrow..................