Monthly Archives: April 2010

So Many Recipes. So Little Time.

As Dirk and I embark on our first camping trip of the season, I must leave you, dear readers for 5 days. It’s probably for the best. I doubt we have internet access where we are headed, and the whole point of getting away with car, camp gear and dog is pretty obvious.

But, before I leave tomorrow morning, I want to leave you with a recipe for a dish we are taking with. (The other recipes, which I have prepared and documented, will have to wait until I return next week to hit the internet.)

Although the emphasis is on camping this week, the recipes can all be made and enjoyed in your home kitchen, as they have been prepared in my little, meager 4’x8′ cooking space. Even since I have lived on my own, and cooked in various kitchens for a living, (most of them small), I rather find a tighter, smaller fit, well, a proper fit.

This is not to say that when I am privy to cooking in family and friend’s larger, spacious and very well equipped kitchen’s I don’t find myself yearning for that, because honestly? I do. I dream about those lovely spaces. Constantly. But for now, this is my reality, and I will deal with what is.

Speaking of spaces, ours is about to grow, profoundly. The outdoor living area in our campsite will be grand enough to view the clear, dark skies which only highlight the stars as they shine close to our tent. The flames of our campfire will jump and dance with great strength and colors, warming us through. The tales we tell throughout the night may even grow themselves, as the wine and song fill our ever expanding hearts and souls.

So, it is only proper that our nights of camping call for big, grand food. I have adapted a very favorite dish of ours to embrace the rich, deep colors and feelings of the great outdoors.

Bison? Why, Yes.

Nothing like a good pot of chile while camping.

I love campfire chili, not to be confused with New Mexican, or Mexican chile. This is chili and beans. Tex Mex, I guess is probably a better comparison. This trip I prepared this dish with Bison, a hearty, grand red meat. Despite its lean calories and iron rich nutrition, the well rounded flavor and richness of the meat stands up to the red wine and cocoa (!) I add to the dish. The result? A bowl of beans and meat that while lean, is robust, round, rich and perfect with a good glass of Zinfandel and a roaring fire.

Throw another log on the fire. There is more wine to finish.

Bison Chili

I rarely eat red meat these days, but when I do, I want it to be worth it. This dish fits the bill. I have always been a fan of more meat than beans ratio when I make chili, so I use 2 pounds in this recipe. If you prefer, you could cut back to just 1 pound, and I am sure it would still be rockin’.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground bison (or any meat you like, ground sirloin, turkey, etc.)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 – 14.5 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 14.5 canned beans, your choice (black, pinto, red, etc), drained
  • 1 cup red wine

Simmering on the stove

This looks good, right?

Directions:

In large sauce pan or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery, garlic and bell peppers; saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add chile powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, tomato paste and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine and cook out slightly, about 5 minutes. Add ground meat. Turn up heat to medium high and saute all ingredients until meat is cooked through. Drain any fat, if necessary.

Add wine and diced tomatoes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Yumba

Now, it looks and smells even better, after a couple hours.

Remove lid, add beans and continue to cook over low simmer, without lid for an additional 30 minutes. Taste, and season as necessary.

At this point, the chili can be cooled, then refrigerated for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen, up to 2 months.

This dish will get better with time, so if you must eat this the day you prepare it and you have leftovers, they will taste even more epic a day or two later!

Feeds a campfire crowd of 8 to 10. If you cut this recipe in half, you will feed a normal household of 4 with little or nothing to spare.

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Lots of Good Eats Over Here

Today was another productive day in the kitchen.

I prepared some more dishes for our camping trip, which I will highlight  tomorrow. In order to placate Dirk, I had to produce a dinner that would distract him from the smells and upcoming meals to be.

Anytime I serve him cheese and pasta, it works. He was a happy man.

More details to follow tomorrow! Right now, I have to wrap up some more odds and ends in the kitchen and put us all to bed.

Tomorrow is another day.

Earth Day Recycling Project

In honor of this lovely day, I offer a recipe which serves many purposes at the moment over here at Casa Reynolds:

  1. We are going camping this weekend, and I wanted to pack some granola for breakfasts, snacking and a possible impromptu berry crisp which may come together during an afternoon at the campsite.
  2. The granola at the stores are typically loaded with sugar and processed oils. They also tend to be stingy on the fruit and nuts, while costing a small fortune. Seriously! I have issues with paying $6.00 and up for rolled oats and additives.
  3. I cleaned out my pantry today, and found various bags of nuts, dried fruits and coconut used for previous baking adventures this year and wanted to get rid of recycle them into a new and improved product.
  4. I thought homemade granola would be another great endeavor for me to take on, since I always have so much free time before going on vacation.

*Insert dripping sarcasm here*

So without further ado, I offer you this:

Hug a Tree and Eat Some Granola on Earth Day Cereal

This recipe is very flexible, so use what you have on hand. If all you have are cashews (why anyone would have cashews laying around in their cupboards for longer than 2 days is beyond me, but whatev,) then use them. If you don’t have coconut, you can leave it out. And, the raisins can easily be dried blueberries, cherries, currants or any other dried fruit. Remember: one of the goals to this recipe is to reuse and recycle. Or, as I like to say, “consolidate and eliminate.” Now get cooking!

Save a tree. Clean out your pantry. Really.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cashews, or other nuts (I had walnuts and pecans, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil, because that’s all I had – you could use canola or any other vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins or any other dried fruit such as currants, dried blueberries, dried strawberries or dried cherries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal (optional) Again, don’t go and buy this if you don’t already have it in house. Yes, I do have ground flax seed meal in my fridge all the time, I’m freaky like that.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combing the oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, dried fruit and flaxseed meal.*
  • In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together maple syrup, oil, spices and salt. Pour over oat mixture and pour onto 1 large sheet pan, spreading evenly.
  • Bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to achieve an even color, and to cook through.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

The raisins were a bit dry, but nothing that bourbon, *I mean* milk on your cereal can't cure.

*Note to readers: After making this recipe, I would not add the dried fruit to the wet cereal mixture before baking. Rather, I would stir in the dried fruit once the cereal has baked in the oven for 30 minutes. The raisins seem a bit dried (duh, I know they are dry already, but they seemed to be even more dried and slightly burnt, due to the naturally high sugar content, I suppose.) Still, all in all; success.

Granola can be stored in a large (hopefully recycled) container in a cool, dark cupboard or pantry for 1 month. This made a huge amount of granola, I would say the equivalent of 2 ($7.00) boxes of cereal, for a fraction of the cost. And better ingredients.

Another Earth Day goal met and achieved!

Camping Food 101

As I mentioned in this post, Dirk and I are going camping this weekend up the California Coastline, via Highway 101/1. We look forward to this trip for many reasons:

  1. We need a break from work and responsibilities.
  2. We love the rugged beaches of the Central and Northern California Coast.
  3. We love to camp.
  4. We can’t afford NYC right now.
  5. We love to eat.
  6. We like fires. Fire! Fire! Fire!
  7. Sometimes not showering for a couple days and wearing the same favorite hoodie and silly hat is really fun. And totally acceptable when you are camping.
  8. Stabbing food with a stick and cooking it over an open flame is cool.

I spent a good part of an hour this afternoon planning out some menus and food lists, and I’m pretty sure we will have lots of yummy treats to fuel our bodies as we burn endless calories sitting in our beach chairs by the fire. So, I thought I might share a recipe or two with you.

These dishes don’t have to wait for camping – they make mighty fine eats under normal eating and cooking conditions. But they work great for camping because a lot of the actual cooking and prep is done before you leave, so you can enjoy great food while you gaze at the glowing embers of your campfire while sipping a beverage of your choice and concurring with your significant other that life indeed, really is, quite lovely.

Look Ma, no butter! No really, I didn't use it. Be proud. Please?

When I was a little girl, my Grandma would make these tasty potato parcels as a side dish around the holidays. Of course, she used lots of butter, sour cream and whole milk, which made them heavenly. I have tweaked this recipe over the last couple of years to incorporate healthier options, while still ensuring the cheesy, creamy factor of these babies. The recipe below makes 4 stuffed potato halves, but you can easily double (or triple) the recipe.

My Grandma’s Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes

  • 2  potatoes, russets work best
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 ounces cheese, about 1 cup grated (I like cheddar and gruyere), use your favorites
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

    All this high tech equipment is money people. MONEY.

Bake potatoes in oven until tender and cooked through. While potatoes are hot, slice horizontally in half, and scoop out the flesh of the potato into a mixing bowl, leaving the skin in tact. Set skins aside.

Mash potatoes with milk, then yogurt. Stir in grated cheese; season with salt and pepper. Place mixture back into potato shells. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

(At this point, the potatoes can be refrigerated, up to 3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.) Thaw frozen potatoes before proceeding with next baking step.

These are the best potatoes. Eveh.

I. Want. One. Now.

Arrange stuffed shells in a shallow casserole dish and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about 30 minutes (if preparing immediately after stuffing the shells, reduce cooking time to 15 minutes.) Or, for camping purposes, wrap potatoes securely in foil, and heat through on a grill over indirect heat, turning occasionally until hot.


A Normal Night

Today was a normal day. Dirk was out of the house/office, and I was home pretty much all day.

The rain came down hard and long, for the morning and early afternoon. I tried to placate Shadow from his normal morning run (and myself, honestly)!

Can I live here forever?

This is where we will be in a week.

It worked, until the rain subsided long enough to either get out for an hour, or lose that opportunity.

We grabbed the chance for an hour outside. And it was glorious! We were pretty much the only ones out on the Shoreline Path.

Coming home from our run at 1 pm vs. 10 am was odd, but we adapted. I made a quick lunch of carrots, celery and red bell pepper with roasted pepper hummus. A vegi burger on whole grain bread with tomato, lettuce and cheddar rounded out the meal.

Tonight’s dinner was a new(ish) recipe – roasted potatoes, shallots and garlic. Organic chicken breasts broiled with gruyere and smoked ham proved to be a fine meal indeed. Imagine a deconstructed Chicken Cordon Bleu, enhanced by a shwack of local watercress, tucked in for vegetable goodness, minus all the nasty breadcrumbs, butter and fat.

It worked.

The Sunset on the Pacific Coast

This is something I get to see all the time. I know, I am blessed.

Another break in the weather allowed me to hang out with Shadow for some catch and retrieve. He also got a good brushing, so he looks even more beautiful that usual.

Getting ready to hunker down inside with the furry one(s). Have a great night everyone!

Camping? Cooking? Yes!!!

Vacation options are lurking over here at the Casa Reynolds, and one of our favorite things to do is camp. We are definitely NOT talking about hiking in, hiking out camping. Car camping is more our style, although I really think (perhaps, hope is a better word), I can eventually convince my better half to try extreme camping at some point. We shall see.

The Boys in the Forest

Dirk and Shadow were born to be wild. In the forest.

Next weekend we are heading north for our first camping trip of the season, to our beloved area of Big Sur. We are going to take Shadow, the trusty wing puppy for his first camping adventure. I have no doubt he will love it. He loves road trips. As soon as we start packing anything, he knows we are going somewhere, longer than a few hours and insists on getting in the back of the car. Unless we relent, he is a pill.  This is regardless whether he comes with, or he goes to his own camp. As long as he is in the car, he knows an adventure awaits.

At this point, we can pack, clean and cook. Hell, we could probably go back to bed for a couple hours, and he would be just fine and dandy in the back of the Volvo. We even leave the back hatch open. He won’t budge. Good boy.

On to our camping needs. Pretty easy too.

Wine and herbs are lovely

You can't pack enough of this.

We are happy to load our gear, and head out. Sounds simple. Pretty much is, but of course it requires food for thought. Or rather, thought for food.

Camping sustanence needs to be easy. You are limited with space, time and cooking equipment. And as much as I love to cook, when enjoying the great outdoors, there are more important things to focus on; like staring at the beautiful ocean, mountainside, camp fire and bottle(s) of wine. Seriously. Priorities, people.

However, since so much energy and thought goes into a trip, you should have some rocking food to go along. You are worth it.

I’ve camped enough to find through trial and error what works wonderfully and what truly is a pain in the butt. Packing enough food items that are ready to serve or need minimal prep, will help you tremendously. A few kitchen tricks can prove to be the difference between a fantastic vacation, or a lesson learned that a camp full of hungry, cold campers is not a happy campground. Indeed. And, it will allow you and your cooking buddies to concentrate on one, incredible dish that will be remembered and discussed around future campfires for a long time.

That said, with proper planning and smart cooking, one can enjoy dishes such as Whole Grilled Fish, Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes, Crispy Baked Chicken, Chile Dry Rubbed Tri Tip and more.

How about Drunkin’ Cheese Dip? Grilled Breakfast Quesadillas? Yogurt with Spring Berries and Homemade Granola?

Oh, and don’t forget the dessert! Brownies, S’More bars and Fruit Cobbler anyone?

Dinner al fresco

Eating by candlelight? I could get used to this.

This week, I will be posting some of my favorite camping food recipes. Hopefully, they will ensure you work less in your outdoor kitchen and eat better than your neighbors, (who are struggling to light their campfire in the dark right now. Maybe you should bring them a few S’more Bars for strength. Oh, and some fire sticks).

You may find yourselves eating so well in fact, that frequent camping and culinary adventures could become a regular part of your schedules, allowing you and your family to come together under the big, open skies and land we are so blessed to have privy to. And that is truly the definition of a real vacation.

A Weekend of Food.

Most of my days are filled with work, obligations, errands, chores and some fun thrown in between. Meals are planned, shopped for, and consumed.

Some are better than others. The weekends are always met with fond anticipation. Plans (or better yet), NO plans are made, and the basis of the next 48 hours revolve around sleep and food.

Yes, I’m pretty easy. Feed me. Give me some lovin’ and put me to bed. I am a happy, happy girl.

Who doesn't love food?

This stuff is awful. Honestly. Just. Walk. Away.

This weekend was no different. Woke up late on Saturday and ventured out for breakfast at one of my favorite bakeries. Croissant, eggs, cheese and strong coffee were consumed. Oh, and an almond bear claw too. Not a bear. Not a claw. Just pure love.

Lunch a few, meager hours later was at Rose’s Cafe, a local mexican joint on the strip of SB Haley St. Our Abuela usually prepares our food, but I think she must have been away, as the lunch while good, lacked the love. Still, the salsa rocked, the chips were warm, the beer was icy cold.

Home for a long, long nap. Dinner out? But of course.

Meal 3 at a new place, Square One. A new chef, some great wine and food later, we were happy folks indeed. Started with a bit of champagne. Foie and a lovely spring beet dish made us hungry all over again. How is that possible?

Our entrees were delightful. Beef cheeks (yes, who knew beef and cheeks could taste so luscious together?) over house made german noodles… Ding! Ding! Ding! A Winnaaa!

Lamb Ragu with sweet potato gnocchi? Bring it. Good thing we had a full bodied Syrah to wash it all down – otherwise we could have made ourselves sick.

Dessert was the only fail of the night. Rhubarb crisp. Not nearly enough sugar, and not crisp. But, the scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a 10 year old port made up for it.

This is my savior.

If I want to eat like this, I have to run with these... 25 miles a week.

Sunday morning – How can it be I am hungry? Well, I am. So feed me. NOW.

English muffins with fried eggs, ham and cheddar. Salmon Benedict. Hash Browns. Oh, and throw some fruit in there for good measure, toot sweet.

Lunch? Uh, no. Nap? Certainly!

Aged cheeses, Mahon and Wesleydale woke me right up. Oh, and a Mortadella sammie helped the fog clear right out of my head.

Dinner of local Sole, potatoes and greens was a redeeming factor for my dietary journal. Food Journal? Really? Bwahahahaha!! Like I need a written trail of this debauchery to prove I am a food whore. C’mon people.

Fish is lovely.

Sole. With Soul.

Honestly, who do you think you are dealing with?

Okay, off to bed to enjoy a couple of chocolate chunk cookies. I kid. NOT.

The weekends rock.