Tag Archives: vacation

Go Green.

Last month I was lucky enough to arrange a quick, last-minute get away to Santa Fe for 4 days. A cheap flight, an open schedule with friends and familia and some fall sunsets were just in order. Oh, and green chile season is in full force right now. Bonus!

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to sample this beloved fruit, I will pray that you, one day can experience a true New Mexican crop. And yes, chile is a fruit:

Chili pepper (from Nahuatl chilli, chilli pepper, chilli, chillie, chili, and chile) is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.

New Mexico grows the best chiles, hands down. The tiny town of Hatch, located approximately 200 miles south of Santa Fe, produces the ever popular green chile, named after its place of origin. The flavor is smoky, slightly sweet and pungent. Its heat is undeniable. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s also highly addictive. Once you give in to the pain, the pleasure is so keen and sharp; there really is no way to describe the feeling.

You want more. Now. Then, later. The next hour. The next day. Next week. Oh yeah. You have a green chile monkey on your back, big time. And the only thing you can do, is feed it. More chile.

The best chile. Ever.

Green chile can be red too. Who knew?

During the few short weeks of chile season in Santa Fe, you can drive through town and stop along the roadsides, the sights (and smells) of heavy iron roasting barrels, filled with bushels of freshly picked whole green chile. As the barrels spin and turn, the aroma wafting through the air is a cross between a crisp fall leaf and some stinky uh… leaf. Honestly, when I first moved to Santa Fe over 20 years ago, I moved up on Zozobra weekend, a ritual of burning “Old Man Gloom” and I swore every neighborhood I drove through was burning some seriously stinky bud. Turns out, this green crop is way better, more profound; much more coveted.

And, it’s actually good for you. Chile is high in Vitamin C, boasts a hefty dose of anti-oxidants, and has been proven to ward off irregular cell production and cancers. And, the Capsicum levels in chiles encourage the brain to release endorphins, nature’s pain killers and mood enhancing chemicals throughout the body. So you see, I’m not kidding when I talk about the addiction part. But it’s a good addiction, understand?

While in Santa Fe last week, my familia and I sat down to peel, seed and bag 2 beautiful bushels (about 40 pounds) of chile. This has become somewhat of a tradition at the Casa de Pearson-Kramer. This year the crew were few (perhaps the party the night before which ended at 4am had something to with it), but hey – if you can’t run with the big dogs…. then get off the porch.

More chile for us.

chile mis en place

No glove? No love. Well, love in all the wrong places. Cuidado my friends, cuidado.

Fortified with some blazing Bloody Marys (thank you Julie!), latex gloves and endless ziplock bags, our newspaper lined table quickly filled with bowls of charred skins and seeds, whole chiles for rellenos later, and 40 precious bags of MH and H (medium hot and hot) love.

The process isn’t rocket science. Don your gloves, have a bowl to dump the unwanted seeds and skins, a bowl for the cleaned chile, a plate for the large, pristine chiles which will become rellenos if desired, and another bowl of cool, clean water. Occasionally dip your gloved hands in the water to keep the seeds at a minimum.

At no time, ever, should a chile pass through the said water bowl. This is known as a dipper, or a dunker. It is wrong, wrong wrong. It’s like drowning your food before you eat it. I mean, honestly, would you drop a steak in a tub of water after throwing it on the grill? I didn’t think so. It’s really the same thing. It drowns the poor chile of its flavor, its zip. I know perfectly sane folks who will go ballistic if they witness this heinous practice while in their presence. I mean, I would never lose it like that. No way. Not me, uh uh. I am way too Zen for that.

But please don’t be a dipper. I beg of you. Thank you.

Green Chile. Bagged and Tagged.

Green Chile. Bagged and Tagged. That's wrong, huh?

After all the chile has been cleaned, bagged and labeled (remember, you have a bushel of both medium hot, and hot. It is very important to keep these separate and correctly labeled). This way, you can mix the heat up a bit, depending on what and whom you are cooking for.

However, it does appear that this years roasting party may be a mix of proper and improper sorting. Both Lori and myself have been privy to ‘medium hot’ chile that nearly blew our pants off, so I am actually a little afraid to try the hot. I’ll report back when I get the nerve to open one of those babies. Chris on the other hand, dove right off the high board and piled the ‘hot’ onto some cheese quesadillas the other night and is still here, so who knows. But, this guy is a die-hard chile pro, for reals. Tread lightly new chile fans. Tread lightly.

Now, what to do with said chiles you ask? First, put all those lovely little bags in your freezer. Then, when your craving for chile hits, you are locked and loaded my friends. I have been successful with freezing my chile for over a year, but at the rate I’m going, the freezer longevity test will be unnecessary.

In the next few days, I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes using the beloved pod, such as Green Chile Sauce, Green Chile Stew and more. But you don’t need a recipe to use these lovely little bags. Simple thaw, chop some chile on a board, and tip them into a flour tortilla with eggs and cheese. Or slide a mound of chile on top of your next grilled burger. Grilled cheese and green chile sammies? Si, claro!

The possibilities are endless. Too bad the supply of Hatch Green Chile isn’t.

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.

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.


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.

Best of 2009

2009 was a great year for many things. Food was no exception. Dirk and I are blessed to share a love and affinity for all that is um, food.

Since our lives revolve around breakfast, lunch, dinner and all in between, it seems fitting to come up the Best of List. This was a joint effort for sure. There are a good dozen plus catagories included. One of each won our hearts; the other a close contender. Here is the list:

1) Best Sandwich – First Place:

Katz’s Deli – NYC, Pastrami on Rye.
This was a beauty to behold. Hand carved, spare no fat, an equal amount of well seasoned and finely shaved meat melted in the mouth. The hearty rye, with its firm crust and fine crumb, needed nothing else. A small smear of mustard and crisp pickle on the side left us speechless.

Heaven on a plate

If any of you are vegan... Well, my condolences.

Runner Up:

Renaud’s Patisserie – Santa Barbara, Croque Monsieur.
In case anyone doesn’t know what this sandwich is made of, it’s a glorified ham and cheese. Layered between two slices of handmade bread, slathered with bechamel and gruyere cheese, it’s then  tucked under a broiler till crispy and brown. The raw talent of this local french bakery is really astounding. Good thing we aren’t within walking distance of this place, because it would be downright dangerous.

2) Best Street Food – First Place:

The Recession Special

I love dogs. All kinds.

Gray’s Papaya – NYC, The Recession Special.
Two hot dogs and a papaya juice for $4.99. Nothing else be said. Dirk likes his with mustard and sauerkraut, I prefer mine with red chili onions. Sublime either way.

Runner Up:

Loteria – Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, Chorizo Fundido.
Imagine a booth in the infamous market that’s been around for 70 plus years. You sit down, order a Hibiscus iced tea and wait for a blistering hot plate served from the broiler with nothing more than a pool of mexican cheese and chorizo sausage. Sop it up with handmade tortillas and weep a little when it’s all gone.

3) Best Cocktail – First Place:

Morton’s Steak House, Charlotte, NC, Sazerac.
I can’t even begin to tell you how lovely this was. I could have had many more of these, but I’m sure it would have been dangerous. Like, on a now you’re conscious and now you’re not level dangerous. Here is the recipe because you may very well need to make one (or two) yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • Peychaud bitters to taste
  • absinthe
  • lemon twist for garnish

Directions:

  1. Chill an old -fashioned glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit while preparing the rest of the drink.
  2. In a separate mixing glass, muddle the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters together.
  3. Add the rye whiskey and ice to the bitters mixture and stir.
  4. Discard the ice in the chilled glass and rinse it with absinthe by pouring a small amount into the glass, swirling it around and discarding the liquid.
  5. Fill the rinsed glass with crushed ice.
  6. Strain the whiskey mixture from the mixing glass.

Sterrelaan Gals

These Gals LOVE a good Dark and Stormy. True Story.

Runner Up:

Dark and Stormy, Goleta Beach House, CA.
This drink proved to be a hit day in and day out when our dear family and friends of Sterrelaan came to visit last summer. Again, here is the recipe because it has great merit in lifting the body and mind.

Ingredients:

  • In a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal rum
  • 5 oz ginger beer
  • Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

Since I know that you now have a cocktail or two to mix, I will conclude this first installment of the Best of 2009. Each and everyone of you should now get yourselves into the kitchen or bar to prepare some love for you and yours.

All this talk of great food and drink suddenly has me hankering for something to nibble and imbibe on and well. I may not have a Gray’s Papaya in the neighborhood, but I do believe I have some great cheese handy.

And a bottle of Gosling’s Rum.

Cheers!

Does This Burger Make Me Look Fat?

Another day of Twenty Ten down. Today went a bit better. And some not so.

Yin and Yang.

Auto stick german made pride

This is my joy. And um, not so joy.

Let’s deal with the worst first. My mechanic finally surfaced to let me know my 74 Volkswagen Beetle is actually a 73 engine, so the ever so easy install of an alternator is a no go. Must revert back to a generator/regulator repair. No problem, except the wiring has been messed with, and blah, blah, blah.

All I heard at this point was $$$$. And again, I’m without a car for going on two plus weeks. Not real thrilled about that. Once this beautiful little car is up and running, I may consider selling it. *sobbing silently now*.

Better moments – a good run in the morning. Got the chimney cleaned and sorted out for a burn year. Cost more than I would have liked, but it’s now all up to code and thanks to Mr. Chimney Sweep (also a Montecito Fire Fighter), I am certain I will not burn down the house or a neighbor’s. Should be good for karma.

Yesterday’s binge still reared its ugly head today. Ugh. Sluggish and fat I felt. Note to self:

Next craving for a burger will have to be met elsewhere.

The warm Pacific Ocean awaits

This is what I love. Sun. Surf. Sand.

Today I ate better. Oatmeal for breakfast, a small salmon sandwich for lunch with the usual vegetable plate and fruit. Dinner was oven baked chicken, spinach and rice. Light on the rice. Light on everything actually.

In case you don’t know, we are headed to Zihuatanejo Mexico in 11 days for a week of much needed R & R. Bathing suit season will rear its ugly head in January, so it’s every man (and woman) for themselves. I am as ready as I can be. It’s not perfect, but it is what it is.

Good health and fitness is always a work in progress, so I don’t beat myself up for my discretions too much. As long as I eat fairly well, move daily and sleep decent I am happy. Dog knows I’m not 18 any more, nor can I try to be.

The ever increasing gray sprouting on my head will attest to that.

But everyday I rise and shine, go for a run or a good walk with Shadow and complete the daily tasks and challenges facing me, make me a happy girl indeed.

And if I can have a glass or two of wine at the end of the day, so much the better.

Yin and yang people, yin and yang.