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The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Campfire Cooking--Father's Day Dinner T-Bones

Father's Day Dinner T-Bones
Tastes just like you've dipped them in steak sauce. Delicious! It started raining just as we began eating, so sorry, no pictures, but the fire is lovely isn't it?

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 (1/2 pound) rib-eye steaks (or more, this makes a lot of marinade)

Place all ingredients in a zip bag and marinate for at least 24 hours. When we're camping, I always make sure the meat is frozen before placing in the marinade for food safety reasons. Grill until desired doneness.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Favorite Day
In My Backyard--Itasca State Park Day 3, Father's Day

What a happy father's day we had! We started with blueberry pancakes and thick cut ham fried out on the campstove. Kona coffee tastes better at the campsite than it did in Kona, Hawaii!

Happy Father's Day D! We gave him a new iPod Shuffle for his biking obsession and, of course, this surprise trip. Think we did good!

We decided to rent a boat and cruise Lake Itasca today and maybe catch a few fish for lunch. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died out in the middle of the lake. So, I made memories, not pictures.

Highlights of the boat trip?
  • Young One catching fish after fish after fish. Funny how when you're a parent, you suddenly want more than anything for your kid to catch a fish--it's no longer you that needs to catch! Now, technically, most of them would be considered bait by seasoned fishermen, but for him, it was so much fun. He changed lures almost every cast until he found one that lured them by the school up to the boat. Then it was "Catch City, mom!" We didn't keep any, they were all too small, and decided that with the looming rain clouds, we'd better finish our exploration of the lake before we got drenched.

  • Eagles, Eagles, Eagles. It's so thrilling to me to see so many of them in my home state again. DDT really did a number on our Eagle populations , but they've come back and for Young One it's just not that big of a deal to see them anymore. Isn't that great? We saw three of them, majestically sitting in dead trees along the shore.

  • Seeing the Mississippi Headwaters from the lake side. You get a totally different perspective on the beginning of the Mighty Mississip from the lake. And it's completely hysterical to watch people navigate the crossing over those slippery rocks.

  • Loons, Loons, Loons. I love our state bird. They're this funky looking black and white checkerboard patterned water bird that dives and swims great lengths underwater. When they come near your boat, it usually means you won't catch many fish because the fish all hide. They don't want to become anyone's dinner at that point! I just love watching them and we saw dozens (and enjoyed hearing their cries from our campsite).

  • Young One drove the boat. You should have seen him trying to be too cool to smile, but the smile was bursting through anyway. Oh, to have captured that moment on film. It's not a face I'm going to forget in a while.

  • Just sitting in the boat, enjoying the rocking of the waves, watching ducks and fish and water lillies, and looking for bear and deer. It was so peaceful, even though we weren't the only ones on the lake, it was so uncrowded, we felt like we were.

  • The smell of the pines. This will forever be my memory of Itasca.

  • Getting back to the dock just in time for a little rain to start.

This park draws people from all over the world. I don't know what it is about the headwaters of this river that gets people interested. Maybe that it comes from such humble beginnings. Maybe that you can walk across it. Maybe because of the history. From ancient, primative tribes, to the Native Americans, to the explorers, the pioneers, the CCC workers, and the first visitors. It's really a slice of history and Americana that many come to see.

We spent the rest of the afternoon dodging raindrops and hitting some gift shops. We had dry weather in time for the evening campfire steak fry. After dinner, Young One and I hit a secret fishing spot just down from the campground at a hidden boat landing. We found Yellow Ladyslippers (wish the picture would have been better!), which were a treat to see and got to watch a turtle lay her eggs and bury them in the sand. No fish were caught, but view was great and there were lots of minnows to watch.

It rained off and on for the rest of the night, but we were safe and snug in our canvas cottage. Young One fell asleep early, so D and I read the evening away. Very relaxing!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Campfire Cooking--Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler and Roasted Corn on the Cob

We do eat the usual campfire fare. Hot dogs, burgers, S'mores, etc. But, I get bored with all that and want to experiment a bit. I've always wanted a Dutch oven and this summer, I finally splurged and bought one. Then a week later, I found another, smaller one at a thrift store for $2! I've got both packed in the camper and this trip, we decided to use the big one to make a wonderful treat.
Peach cobbler was always on the menu when we lived in the South. And, I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't made it since we lived there eleven years ago! I won't go this long again after trying this simple recipe.
I decided to line my Dutch oven with nonstick foil just to make clean up easier. It did leak a bit, so we still had a bit of scrubbing to do, but not as bad as it could have been.
Here's the recipe. I'm telling you, it's so simple, the result is really yummy, and the scent will bring your campground neighbors following their noses. We ate our fill and shared with two other campsites.
Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler
Toss two 30-oz cans of peaches in heavy syrup into the DO. Then, spread a box of cake mix, yellow or white- your choice, over the top. Then, sprinkle cinnamon to taste, and place pats of butter over the top. A half a stick is about right. 15 coals on bottom, and about ten on top for 45 minutes. Hang out in your hammock and stare at it until it's done.
Campfire Roasted Corn on the Cob
Remove as much silk from the corn as you can. Wrap with husks again. Soak corn in water for about 30 minutes. Over very hot coals, grill corn in husks until done. I don't know how else to explain it. You'll know it's done when a kernel pierced with a knife squirts out juice and the color has changed from milky yellow to a brighter yellow. Peel back husks and roast ears directly on the grates if you wish.
Serve with butter and salt. Or if you're really feeling like the campground gourmet, make flavored butter. Chile lime butter is especially good. Just search online for flavored butters.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Favorite Day
In My Backyard--Itasca State Park Day 2 Continued

Historic Douglas Lodge.

Water Lilies in bloom.

The Honeymoon Cabin (or Old Timer's Cabin). Built from four logs by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s.

Back to the campsite so D could hit the Wilderness Drive on his bike. This is the before picture. I'd hoped to get an after picture when he arrived home, but he had wiped out and needed some attention. Not only did he check the function of his helmet, but in his crash test, he scraped the heck out of his shoulder and battered and bruised the rest of him. This all happened while landing in a patch of Poison Ivy and providing a diversion for a couple on a tandem bike. "Go big or go home." This occurred 2 miles into the trip. He manly manned his way through the next 15 miles. Said it was still a great ride. And I think his ego hurt more than any of the actual injuries!

Friday, June 26, 2009

CSA Cuisine--Spinach Salad

I am so enjoying my membership with Community Homestead's CSA this year. The produce is even better than I remembered.

This spinach salad was so delicious. I don't know if it was just the freshness of the spinach, the variety, or the flavor combination. I think it was a combination of all three.

Spinach is one of the healthiest greens you can eat. And fresh spinach keeps all of it's delightful nutrients, so it's a great option if you're really looking to pack a nutritional punch. D isn't a good produce eater so I have to be creative about how to get several servings into him each day.

The dressing recipe makes a large amount, great for future salads. Once you make this one, you're going to want to make more!

Sweet Spinach Salad

Spinach, a big bowl full--washed and tough stems removed. Spin dry if you're able

Goat cheese, 1/2 of a small log

1-2 Fuji apples, cored and chopped

1/2 small onion, diced

1/4 cup chopped almonds

Poppy Seed dressing:

In a blender, whirl until smooth:

1 large slice onion

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp white sugar

1/4 tsp dried mustard powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 TB cider vinegar

1/4 cup plus 2 TB canola oil


1 3/4 tsp poppy seeds.

Toss salad with a very small amount of dressing. Add just enough that the leaves are coated. Serve and enjoy!

My Favorite Day
In My Backyard--Itasca State Park Day 2

A little trail walkin'.

Some acrobatics.

Fishing for lunkers (or lunch?).

The biggest White Pine in Minnesota. Or at least the biggest one that you can walk up to and take pictures of without having to canoe one hundred miles through the Boundary Waters.

Itasca State Park's Wilderness Drive. 17 miles of pure beauty.
We took the Drive around Lake Itasca to explore the park. What fun. There were many places to stop and explore the trails. We saw a 9,000 year old Bison Kill site, the biggest Red and White Pines in the state, and lots of pristine lakes.
Living in the Twin Cities, I often forget the beauty of Up North Minnesota. This is why we live here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest in Peace

We lost two icons today. One, who's poster I'm pretty sure graced the walls of many men that I know. The other, who's poster hung above my bed.

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, rest in peace.

Michael. Talented. Brilliant. Tortured. Hunted. Weird. Extreme. Sad. Lonely. Controversial. Fragile. May you now know the rest that you truly deserve. Your life was not your own. Your life an example of how not to raise a child. What beautiful music you left behind. What a tragic life. I hope there was more happiness for you than it appeared.

Young One just loves Thriller. In fact, I think it was the first CD he downloaded onto his iPod touch.

This feels like one of those moments that people will talk about for a long time. Where were you when Michael died?

How sad that Farah will not get the same attention.

CSA Box Three

This week's CSA box yielded a wonderful harvest. More spinach, beet greens with baby beets still attached, a huge, bright green cucumber, a head of Red Summer Crisp lettuce, sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, cilantro (I put this in the trade box for someone else to take home, we're just not cilantro fans), turnips, and more garlic scapes.

My grandma, the one I call Norman, makes the best fresh cucumber pickles. She works some sort of magic and makes them taste so wonderful. This recipe is close, but not as good as hers. I hope someday I leave behind such a legacy!

Stay tuned for more CSA inspired recipes. I've got some good ones this week!

Fresh Cucumber Pickles
Cucumbers are a free food. Enjoy a big serving. These are great alongside grilled meats, burgers, and dogs.
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced onion, one medium
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 TB dill (optional, I left it out because Grandma never added it! Delicious!)
Place cucumbers and onion in a bowl. Bring vinegar, water, and white sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add dill, if desired. Pour hot brine over vegetables and cover. Refrigerate until chilled.

My Favorite Day
In My Backyard--Itasca State Park

Campsite sweet campsite.

A mother bear and her cub. What a wonderful surprise!

The quest for the headwaters!

Every Minnesotan child must walk across the Headwaters of the MIssissippi River. It's a state law. Young One was born in another city by the Mighty Miss, Memphis. So small and clear here, so wide and muddy there!

Vacation is fun!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Camping Weekend!

Hideous footware aside, this is what I intend to be doing most of this weekend. Ahh, blissful relaxation. We're headed out of town for the annual surprise dad and take him somewhere for Father's Day weekend.
I'll reveal said location when we return.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CSA Box Two

I am a dork this way, but seriously, these boxes are better than Christmas to me.
This week, the goodie box contained: baby kale, more salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and spinach. All delicious.
I washed and sauteed the spinach to serve with grilled salmon. Not really a recipe because it's so easy. Wash and remove large stems from spinach. In a very large, I mean huge pan, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add a heaping teaspoon of fresh, minced garlic. Saute quickly and until leaves are tender and dark green. Young One loves to watch the huge bag of spinach become next to nothing. Drain slightly and sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano Cheese. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CSA Box One

I'm a big supporter of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Basically, CSAs give you a chance to support your local economy by backing a small farmer with "seed money" and then watching it grow and enjoying a share in their bounty all season long. My CSA is Community Homestead. A delightful community where disabled and able adults live and work together.

This was my first box. I'm a little behind updating and am actually on week three, so I'm going to try to catch you up here with a few posts.

Included in our box this week: spinach, Asian cabbage, green onions, rhubarb, broccoli, spicy salad greens, lettuce and beet greens.

I couldn't wait to get my hands on those greens, so I washed them all and used my handy dandy salad spinner to spin them dry. I've always found that if I wash greens right away when I bring them home, I'm more likely to use them.

I had a small salad for lunch. It had been since last Spring that I'd had such a fresh salad (when I pulled greens from my own little garden plot). I'd forgotten how delicious they are when fresh and not bagged for weeks and sitting on store refrigerator shelves. The cucumber was amazing.

I think we Americans have forgotten what fresh really means!

Included in my first box was a recipe for Asian Cabbage Slaw. I made it for dinner that night, not having any other ideas as to how to use the Asian Cabbage. It was so wonderful, but made a ton of dressing, which I saved to use on other salads. My head of Asian cabbage was small. Those found in the produce section of your grocery store are usually much larger, so perhaps the dressing amount is geared towards that. Delicious. I would take this to summer BBQs and prepare to be asked for the recipe, which you will find below.

Asian Cabbage Slaw

Crisp and sweet, this salad is a full meal itself. Or serve alongside a Asian inspired marinated grilled meat. If you're trying to watch what you eat, cut down on the sesame seeds and almonds tremendously (I did and it was still delicious). Also, drizzle a small amount of dressing on and toss until leaves appear coated and shiny. You don't need much.

1 head Asian cabbage, washed and thinly sliced

1 small bunch green onions, cleaned and sliced

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar (I bet rice wine vinegar would be great too)

1 TB soy sauce

Toast sesame seeds and almonds in a skillet coated with nonstick spray. Watch carefully, and remove from pan immediately when seeds begin to lightly brown. Place white sugar, oil, vinegar, and soy sauce in a jar. Shake to combine. Toss cabbage and onions, drizzle with dressing and toss until leaves are coated. Sprinkle with seeds and nuts and toss again. Serve immediately. Only dress what you think you will eat, we've found that this salad doesn't keep once it's dressed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Favorite Day
In My Backyard--Wargo Nature Center

Eight miles from my house is a wonderful place to get back to nature. One of the reasons we live where we do is because of the close proximity to lots of nature. We love to wander trails, watch for wildlife, and just basically unplug.

These pictures are from a recent trip to Wargo Nature Center. It's marsh lake is not typical of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes and it's beauty is unique. The birds that visit this lake are amazing. We saw Bald Eagles, a deer, many butterflies and wildflowers, and clouds of newly hatched dragonflies. Magic!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Burning Books

Fahrenheit 451 anyone? No not really. We don't burn books. But, every year, we have a tradition at our house. Young One looks forward to it throughout the school year. In fact, he stores paper during the year for the annual burning o' the homework.
Environmentally a good idea? We all know the answer to that one! This isn't about what's good for the Earth, though. It's exhilarating to watch him gleefully torch his much hated homework. We sit around the fire and toast his graduation to a new grade with ice cream and reminiscing. (S'mores cooked over burning colored paper and notebooks have been shown to cause numerous diseases and loss of brain matter, so we don't go there.)

Actually, we had an interesting talk about his sex ed class at school and how the boys asked 55 minutes of questions (God love the instructor!). Young One couldn't believe kid's parents didn't talk to them about this stuff. Welcome to the world, kiddo! Amazing what they talk about when the you just take the time to listen.

I now have a 6th grade middle schooler. Next year, new school, new experiences. Life is changing quickly! His last day of school he leapt from the bus and immediately went to a friends house for a celebration. His life is becoming more and more his own and I couldn't be happier. Although, I have to admit, I had twinges of loneliness when he was gone that evening. It was our first night of waiting up for him to come home. He arrived at the late (gasp!) hour of 10 pm.
So, our annual burning o' the homework didn't happen until a couple of days later. Still was fun. And so, summer is launched!

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!