Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Top 10 Reasons to Stay at The Glades RV Resort

As you know, I won a 6 month stay at The Glades RV Resort in Moore Haven, Florida. Before deciding on an extended stay there we decided to spend a month this year to be sure we liked it. We will go back. Here's why:

10. The people at The Glades. Both residents and employees. Everyone was so welcoming and nice.

9. The surrounding communities. We had a great time here. There was so much to see and do we could not possibly see take in everything in a month. We missed the Sugarland Tour in Clewiston (It was booked up, so if you go to The Glades book this early),  Billie Swamp Safari, and several other attractions.
At the Ortona Cane Grinding Festival
8. The RV Park - so neat and clean without being over-regulated.

7. The fishing. You could fish anywhere there was water and the Calahooshatchee River runs by the park and the resort has its own marina. When we go there next we will have a boat in some form. Arch did fish from the dock, from the river bank and at a small dam at the Ortona Lock near the park. We are thinking a Porta-Bote would be great.

6. The people in the neighbouring communities. Everyone was very helpful and happy to tell us about their town and how to get the most from our visit there.

5. The location. Some might think the location a bit isolated - it is 15 miles to the nearest shopping, etc. But we thought that an advantage. We loved the peace and quiet (especially after Adelaide Shores where we had a major highway and a nightclub just behind us, and a tennis court where activities started at 7:30 am right outside our bedroom window). The night sky was beautiful - the ability to see it is a rarity in over-lit Florida. Lake Okeechobee is near by and it is a one to one and a half hour drive to the beaches on the Gulf Coast, Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captivia Islands, The Everglades, Shark Valley, Naples, etc. We did one trip per week.

4. The resort activities. From pot luck suppers to art classes to bean bag baseball, if you got bored here it is your own fault.
We sucked at bean bag baseball. But they were nice enough to let us play anyway.
3. The golf. The resort has a 9 hole golf course on site with organized men's, women's and couple events but with lots of times available for residents to just walk over and play 9 holes. Again, very laid back. Because they knew we had problems leaving Tara alone we were permitted to take her with us in the golf cart. She had to stay on the cart, but it did make it possible for us to play golf together. Also, there was a small grill at the golf course - great for a quick breakfast or lunch.
So, guess who walked
Golf buddies - photo by Elaine from E & R's Travels
2. The weather. It was spectacular. only one day of rain in 30 and temperatures in the high 20s C. One thing we learned on this trip - if you want to be guaranteed warm, relatively dry, winter weather in Florida you must be south of a line stretching across Florida from Sarasota to Stuart.

1. Did I mention the people? From Facebook friends Elaine and Rick (thanks guys for including us in your activities) from New Brunswick whom we met through their blog, to Kristi and Jerri in the office, to the guys at the golf course and grill, to our fellow golfers and all the residents of The Glades, everyone was friendly, helpful and made us feel incredibly welcome and included.
Farewell supper - from left around the table, Cheryl, Cal, Debbie, Elaine and Rick
So, Thank you The Glades RV Resort. We will be back.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

LaBelle, Florida, Swamp Cabbage Festival.

According to the US Census Bureau the population of LaBelle is 4653. I think everyone was at the Swamp Cabbage Festival today. It was hot, crowded, interesting and a lot of fun.

On the advice of the locals we arrived at 9 am to get a good seat to watch the parade, due to start at 10 am. We found a great spot to set up our chairs here, right at the entrance to the park:
And the sign privoded a bit of shade. Necessary, as the day promised to be a hot one. We had an excellent view down the parade route. It would come to the corner where we were then turn left:
Then this happened, totally obscuring our view:
A local person sitting with us went to ask if they would move the cars. They were blocking a street already closed further up the road and therefore not really necessary. "Nope" said the policeman "the boss told us to do this".

We waited a while. Then Arch went over and asked. And offered a solution. Right up the road  being blocked was a lift bridge to let the boats on the river through. Why not just turn on the lights for the lift, or even lift the gate. "I don't know" said the policemen "we were told to put the cars here." Arch just shrugged and walked away. Then we noticed him on the phone:

And then they got in the cars and moved them. He came over and told us he called "the boss" and told him the cars weren't necessary and to turn on the lights at the lift bridge, which they did. And we had a perfect view down the parade route:
Sometimes, offering an alternative solution is all it takes.

The parade was great.

The police were showing off all their fun assets:
The horses wore their yellow stripe on their ankles
This bloodhound was a big hit
and of course, the crash test dummy
Motorcycle police from the local Seminole Reservation provided very casual and friendly, but effective, crowd control:
There were Southern Belles - no idea why the fisherman was on this float except that fishing is huge here and they had to get it in somewhere.

And of course the Swamp Cabbage Festival Princess and her attendants:
The Red Hat Ladies where there:
Steam equipment (boat and engine) was on display:
The local cockroaches (representing a pest control company) were dancing up the street:
There were horseback riders doing tricks:
Lots of swamp buggies were on parade. They are, after all, manufactured in LaBelle. You can see more pictures of swamp buggies on our facebook page
And the Bayshore Elementary School Cloggers had a great float - the best in the parade, I thought. The theme was Cloggers in Toyland. And It was pulled by a Tonka Truck:
And then a huge number of toys represented on the float itself:
And bringing up the rear of the parade, a couple of Clydsdales:
After the parade the crowd headed to the food and crafts booths. Lots and lots of food booths. First inside the park was the sweet tea seller. Sweet iced tea is the nation drink here. We have yet to develop a taste for it.
Then every kind of food you can imagine. Except fish and chips:

 And of course dessert:
So. What is swamp cabbage? Well, thank you for asking.
Swamp cabbage is the name given to the heart of the Sabal Palm. You can buy it canned under the name "hearts of palm", which is good in salads but I've never tried to cook it from a can.
The Sabal Palm is indigenous to Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and coastal North Carolina. They are very common and readily available in most areas. They grow wild in such abundance that they are not cultivated as a harvest vegetable.

You can learn more and see how to cook it here. Or the Food Network website has a recipe from Bobby Flay 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lunch with Old Friends

Last Tuesday we drove to Naples to visit our long-time friend Gil and his wife Joyce at their lovely winter home in Naples. Even Tara was invited.

A lovely setting for a delicious lunch
For lunch Joyce served crab salad on a croissant with a delicious green salad and then a special heart-shaped dessert in honour of Valentine's day. We were so busy catching up on each other’s news, (the last time we saw them was in Nova Scotia in May – they were our first official guests at the Adventure Bus.) that I forgot to take any pictures of the beautiful food or the lovely table setting. Also forgot to ask for recipes L.

After lunch Gil took us for a tour of the golf community where they live while Joyce doggy-sat Tara:
Hole #1 on the golf course
Then we headed back to pick up Tara, planning to take her to the dog beach in Bonita Springs on the way home. Joyce thought there might be one closer, at Marco Island but a quick check on the Ipad did not show any.
Tara says "hurry up Joyce, I know you will find one"
So we said our good-bys until they are in NS next summer and headed out. It wasn’t until we were in the car that we realized it was 3:30 and we had a 1 ½ hour drive home – so no beach for Tara that day.

Anyway, I think crab salad on a croissant is a great luncheon dish and I will be serving it to our next guests. The following recipe is mine, adapted from one from A Taste of Home. Would love to include the dessert as well Joyce J

Crab Salad on a Croissant

8 ounces crabmeat, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 lettuce leaves
4 croissants, split

In a small bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Serve on lettuce-lined croissants. Yield: 4 servings.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Visiting Old Friends

It has been a busy two days catching up with old friends.

On Monday, Dave and Kathy, friends since our college days drove over from Fort Myers for lunch:

We had a great visit. After lunch Arch and Dave went out to play 9 holes of golf and Kathy and I caught up on news about family and friends. A lovely, relaxing visit.
You can tell by the sun tans who has been in the sunny south longer

This was the first time we entertained in The Adventure Bus since leaving Halifax in October so I kept the menu very simple:
Rosemary and Thyme Gulf Shrimp with Strawberry/Spinach Salad
The recipes:

Roasted Gulf Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme

6 tbsp olive oil
6 thyme sprigs
3 rosemary sprigs, cut in half
fresh pepper
1 1/2 lb fresh shrimp
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar (I use white wine)

Preheat oven to 400F
Combine oil, rosemary, thyme and 1 tsp pepper in a 9" x 12" baking dish and bake in oven about 12 minutes until the mixture is fragrant. Add the cleaned shrimp, toss with tongs or a fork until the shrimp is coated with oil, and roast until shrimp is pink - about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and add white wine or vinegar, toss well.
I serve these as is in a bowl ,sort of as a finger food, but you could serve over rice for a more substantial meal.

Serves 4

Spinach and Strawberry Salad
To the best of my knowledge this recipe is from Stuart McLean, host of CBC Radio's The Vinyl Cafe - a Sunday morning "must listen" in our house.

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 C salad oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of paprikia

1/2 C slivered almonds
1/4 C white sugar
2 tsp water
2 - 10 oz bags or 3 bunches spinach
2 C sliced strawberries

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, cover and shake well. You can make this a day ahead and keep in refrigerator. I like to warm it to room temperature before using.

Butter or oil a large sheet of foil and place on the counter. Combine almonds, sugar and water in a medium frying pan and stir over medium heat until sugar melts, continue stirring until sugar coats the almonds and they turn a light golden brown. Immediately turn the coated almonds out onto the foil. DO NOT TOUCH. They are hot. When cool, separate them and set aside until you are ready to use them. Again, these can be made ahead of time and stored, covered, in a cupboard.

Combine spinach and strawberries. Toss in almonds, add dressing, a bit at a time, toss well. You likely will not use all of it. I use about half but we don't like too much dressing on our salads.

And for dessert, Sour Orange Pie.

On Tuesday we drove to Naples for lunch with another long time friend. But that will be another blog post.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Florida Sour Oranges

One thing this trip has taught us, the best way to learn about a community or area is to attend a local community event. So we’ve been doing a lot of that. Last Saturday we went to the Lakeport Sour Orange Festival. I’m sure most of you have no idea what a sour orange is. We certainly didn’t. But we soon learned. I now think they may be Seville Oranges. But here is the local story.

The round fruit has a fairly thick, rough surface and is not eaten fresh.
Sour Oranges
This citrus fruit was the only orange to be grown in Southern Europe and Arabia during the Middle Ages. The Spaniards introduced it to Florida when they settled St Augustine. They became very valuable for their commercial importance as a rootstock for the sweet orange industry. Native Americans and early settlers began to propagate them at their homesteads and eventually moved away. Leaving these hardy trees to fend for themselves in rural areas. Today you can spot them growing alone in pastures and along the road in Glades County.

The oranges have a tart juice that is used to flavour pies, breads, ice cream and other desserts. It can be used as the main flavour in recipes similar to the way key lime juice is used.

Sour oranges are still grown commercially in Spain to make marmalade in Britain, sour orange peels make candies in Puerto Rico and the Mojito of Cuba is a zesty mixture of sour orange juice, garlic and other herbs. Liqueurs such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Curacao are made with sour oranges.

Lakeport residents celebrate and preserve the agrihistorical significance of this once important domestic crop by holding a yearly festival where all kinds of desserts made with the sour orange are sold. In the picture below the crowd has gathered under the live oaks to bid on cakes and pies. They were pretty elaborate and one cake sold for $140.

Lucky for us they were selling less elaborate version of the sour orange pie at the community centre. Everyone told us they were very good. So we purchased one to serve to our friends Dave and Kathy when they come for lunch on Monday. It tastes a lot like key lime pie.

They also gave me a copy of the recipe with purchase:

Sour Orange Pie


1 (10-inch) prepared pastry crust, baked
1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (you could use 1/2 orange juice, 1/2 lemon juice if you can't get sour oranges.)
5 or 6 egg yolks, to make 1/2 cup
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely shredded zest of sour orange soaked in 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional garnish (we didn’t get this, or the meringue, on our pie but it sounds delicious.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Put sour orange juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until juice is reduced by half - 3/4 cup. Remove from heat and cool.

In the bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale. Add the sweetened condensed milk in two additions, beating well and scraping down sides. Gradually pour in reduced sour orange juice. Pour into cooled pie crust.

In another bowl beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and beat for 1 minute to incorporate. Gradually add sugar, beating on high speed until peaks are firm and mixture is glossy. Spoon meringue over pie and twirl with spoon to make peaks.

Put pie on a baking sheet and bake in center of oven for 8 minutes, or until meringue is just browned, watching carefully to avoid burning. Remove and garnish with soaked sour orange zest, if desired.

Refrigerate until cold and firm.

Makes 1 (10-inch) pie; 8 servings.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ortona Cane Grinding Festival

Yesterday we had the opportunity to enjoy many things that are great about the United States - community spirit and support, friendly people, good food and down home entertainment. It was like we stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting. True Americana. At the Ortona Cane Grinding Festival.

Sugar Cane is a major crop here and in the coming week we plan to take a Sugarland Tour out of Clewiston to learn about this industry. But yesterday Ortona, a small town just across the Caloosahatchee River from The Glades RV Park, held a Sugar Cane Grinding Festival. We had to drive 40 kms around to cross the river.There are not a lot of bridges here and, as the river is a major inland waterway between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Okeechokbee, all bridges must be high enough, or open, to let boats through.

Cost to enter the festival grounds was $9 per adult and included lunch.

The first thing we saw as we entered was the area where lunch was prepared and served:

It was highly organized - very impressive. Food was prepared at the far end, assembled into meals in styrofoam containers and sold at this end. It was a barbeque menu: bbq chicken or pork, baked potatoes, coleslaw and a roll. This is the main barbeque pit:
They cooked with a layer of charcoal coals topped with live oak wood for smoke flavour. The man who started the fire arrived at 5 am to get it going and hot. The feastval opened at 10 so I expect they started cooking at 9.
barbequing chicken
Behind this permanent pit were 2 more portable barbeques. This one, on loan from the Sheriff's Department:

 Which cooked a lot of chicken at once:

This was a good thing as they expected to serve 800 meals by 3 pm. 

The third barbeque was used to cook the baked potatoes:
If the rest of the pictures have hazy spots it is due to smoke from all these barbeques, We were tempted to eat immediately  but decided to wander and check out the rest of the grounds.

First to the main attraction:

Cane grinding is really very simple. sugar cane is inserted in a grinder much like a wood chipper (to my eyes, others may disagree). The sugar cane is shredded, rather than ground, and the resulting juice is captured:

As you can see in the photo above the juice is strained through burlap into a stainless steel pot. It is then strained through cheesecloth a couple of time to be sure all the bits of sugar cane are removed.

From then on the process of making cane syrup is much like the process for making maple syrup.

The syrup is boiled down in a pot built into what looks a lot like an outdoor oven:

The fire is lit under the pot:

And the cane juice bubbles away in the pot until it reaches the desired consistency:

When thick enough it is bottled and sold. They tell us most people use it on pancakes or waffles or in baked beans.

Don't you love the expressions on their face as they await Arch's opinion on the syrup. Fortunately he liked it. It was very sweet though. Much, much sweeter than maple syrup.

Then we visited a booth selling a wide variety of preserves made with swamp cabbage and cane sugar:

Swamp cabbage is a local product made from the core of one particular type of palm tree. It has been eaten in this part of the country since it was first settled and was introduced to European settlers by the local Indians. It is harvested by chopping down the palm and cutting out the core:

You may know it as hearts of palm. I am not sure how well you can see this picture of the harvesting process. Click on it to enlarge it. This may look like a lot of the bush is wasted but so. The leaves are used for the roofs of chikees, a structure originally used for shelter by the Indians and Crackers and now is used on sheds, etc. And the remainder is burned. This palm is regarded as a weed so....

We purchased several products:

Interesting name for this one:

Time to eat. Arch got the pork lunch:
And I got the chicken:

I know. I don't eat meat. We brought the chicken home and cut it up to use in sandwiches for Arch. The baked potato and coleslaw (under the baked potato in this picture) were enough lunch for me. Along with dessert:

We found a spot under the live oaks to enjoy our lunch:

And music by a local country band:

And clog dancers from a local dance school. So cute:

The festival appeared to be staged by the entire community with strong support from the local Sheriff's Department:

All funds raised go to support the community's children. So on our way out we purchased our week's produce from this booth:

All in all we had a great time. Next week is the Sour Orange Festival in another small town close to here. We will let you know how it goes.