Wednesday, November 28, 2018

TRAVEL-COOK | Yes, but!

We travel a lot - different kinds of traveling and cooking and eating.

Although we love to cook and travel (who doesn't?!), there are just a few things we especially enjoy returning home to.  To read the prior post, click here.

1. My dad - here he is in the plaid shirt at the Senior Center Bizarre! Attending the bizarre was one of the first things we did after getting back into town from our most recent trip.  Definitely grounding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Our farmers' Market (even when the weather isn't great). We love being able to support our local farmers and buy great quality food.  We get updates on the growing conditions of the produce and the livestock. Our mushroom lady is famous for serving up a sample of recipes and sharing recipe cards.                                                         

Other farmers, we trade recipes with like one of our favorite farmers, "Porkman" Bob, from Elysium Farms. He reintroduced us to Shakshuka, which he loves to make with his Chorizo.  We made a green tomato vegetarian version with bacon (I know, but everything really is better with bacon!             

The eggs are from another farmer, Eileen, with Twin Post Farm.                                                                                               

We actually still had some little green tomatoes out in our garden - growing and buying fresh produce always prompts us to get creative. So I thought why not make GREEN tomato Shakshuka. We were more than a little surprised to find several recipes and did what I often do - got the gist of it and got busy cooking! Here is the one we primarily followed.

After chopping everything up and even grabbing some cilantro, I almost forgot the red pepper! 

I started by cooking the bacon. We often debate this, but I flavor the pan with the meat and then saute the vegetables. Jim likes to saute the vegetables then cook the meat. To be honest it's all good! 

We chopped up everything and even grabbed some cilantro, but almost forgot the red pepper! Thankfully, I did remember and quickly chopped it up and added it. Then, we sauteed everything together until it started looking happy added, a little stock to bring it all together before cracking in the eggs.

Once the eggs are added, just finished with some cilantro and serve it up with some hot sauce and mojo sauce! We just started making the mojo sauce - we have a ton of habaneros or scotch bonnets every year. It is a challenge to figure out what to do with them all!  Pepperpot Stew is a favorite, but it only uses 2.

3. Stock - we keep a gallon Ziploc in the freezer for "stock parts." Throughout the week, or over several days, we save up produce skins, parts, and pieces and add to the freezer bag. If we have a meat bone we add it, but usually, it is veggie stock.

Once a week (more if needed) we pour the contents into the crockpot and add celery and carrot, if there aren't any included, along with some water. Set it on low for 8 hours and keep the stock in the fridge in mason jars to use as needed. 

If we end up with more than we can use in a week then we freeze it in another Ziploc. This is one time you do not want to substitute - use a Ziploc bag! As threatened in an earlier post we may have a post on nothing but brand-name must-haves. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this! 

4. Surf fishing. Nothing beats being outside on the water on a sunny day, even if it is only in the 50s!  The trick is to dress appropriately and, most often, in layers. mittens and hats are a must!

This time out we didn't get a bite, but did meet Parson and his owner, Sherry Harris. Sherry borrowed our flag and I took pictures with her cell phone of her riding Parson. 

I felt a little guilty, because I asked her horse's name before even realizing I didn't ask hers until a few minutes later! I thought I would easily be able to find her on facebook to connect, but wasn't able to after a quick search. I'll probably search some more.

Jim surprised me by bringing oysters and a standalone burner, grill, and hotdogs & buns! It was such a treat to have not only salty, Chesapeake oysters, but also something warm when standing out in the cold wind.

There are two undeniable facts:

Oysters taste better eaten on the beach


Hot dogs taste better eaten on the beach

5.  We miss homemade sourdough. In the fall and through the winter we keep the starter going in the fridge and make a couple of loaves a week. The recipe calls for using loaf pans, but somehow it tastes so much better to cook them in rounds.

6. Deer in the garden - we are still undecided about this one! When I spotted these cuties I ran into the house and (Sotto Voce) "Jim, there's a herd of deer in the garden!" He got the couple of great shots we have. Mine were ridiculous as I was afraid to get to close and scare them away. 

Sorry, my friends - no food for you! 

7. Dogfish - We don't really miss them, truth be told! 

The next time we went surf-fishing we didn't get so lucky - all we caught was a spiny dogfish. 

You can eat them. But we don't. On principle!

This morning I noticed a little red dot above my calendar on google chrome - it looked like it had a number in it. Curious, I clicked on it and pictures from various years throughout the month of November magically appeared! All of them were of us surf-fishing, of course!

Yes it's often windy, cold, and, lately, we haven't caught many fish, but what we do get reminds us it's all worth it! 

Just in case it's of interest, here are the recipes from our Thanksgiving dinner - Happy Holidays! 

Smoked Scallops - we didn't actually get to these, but sounded YUM! 

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites - healthy and delicious.

Walnut Brussel Sprouts - our friend "the other Jim" found them delicious, but guessed they were something more exotic, like chestnuts!

Honey Brined Turkey - so easy and little or no cleanup.

Persimmon Beet Spinach Salad - beautiful and so good!

Alabaster Potatoes - a healthy spin on mashed potatoes that makes them so light and airy.

Apple Dumplings - we didn't make these, but we're going to!

Mexican Apple Pie - Jim didn't want to waste the bit of dough left from the latticework and fashioned a turkey on top (we ate it before we thought to take a picture)!

To read the prior post, click here.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


October 2018

We travel a lot - different kinds of traveling and cooking and eating.  Recently we flew to tent camp in Arkansas for a Blues Festival and then stayed in a series of cottages and cabins in the woods of Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as the Gulf!  We followed that by a stay in a historic hotel - The Lafayette in New Orleans before flying home!

Each setting required a different approach to meal time, depending upon resources. Quite the challenge at times! Out of all, cooking the majority of our meals while tent camping at

a primitive site was the most challenging. Since we flew, we had only a grasshopper stove (which believe me, we were thankful for!). While we enjoy eating out, the festival fare isn't quite for us, and Helena-West Helena offers limited "dining" options. So, we had to get a little creative!

On this trip, I came to realize how much we truly enjoy preparing our own food and strive to overcome daunting obstacles to do so. Not for the faint of heart, cooking on the move is not for everyone. It is a challenge. It is hard, It is good! I decided some of our stories are good enough to share and decided to rebrand this blog toward that end. I hope you agree!

This year we flew for the third time to the King Biscuit Blues Fest in Helena-West Helena Arkansas, a camping fest in a rural, financially-struggling part of the south. Even if you wanted to stay in a hotel, you wouldn't want to stay in a hotel. So, camping it is!  

The campground is really just a big field on the other side of the levy from downtown Helena. The Helena-West Helena firemen spend days and weeks mowing and preparing for the event. This is a huge fundraiser for them and they do a great job keeping the porta-potties clean, stocking enough ice to sell and making sure everyone has plenty of water!

Logistically, we also prepare weeks, planning carefully what to pack and weighing our checked bags. The Arkansas weather is mercurial in October - it could be cold and rainy or scalding hot without a cloud in sight.  This year a local had put out a hog trap not far from our usual site.  He thoughtfully blocked it up so we would awaken to hearing hog screams in the middle of the night.  I think there was enough activity to keep them at bay, I never heard or saw one (in Helena-West Helena). 

With only one carry-on and one (very large) checked bag, we need to carefully consider what warrants room in our bags.  Sleeping bags and pads, tent and screen house and some cooking basics take precedence. 

What cooking basics? A grasshopper stove, large enamel cup for cooking everything from coffee to soup, a frying pan with collapsible handle, a collapsible coffee pour over filter, sporks, and Ziplocs.* Not familiar with a grasshopper stove?! It's a wonderful invention - the burner comes with two legs that you screw into a small propane tank to make the third leg. Simply ingenious!

This year we went overweight - 50 lbs.I think this is because I forgot to sign up for the $9 fare club on Spirit, but have yet to double check this. (As an aside, we have had great experiences on Spirit so far and feel like we are getting a great deal).

We trudge all our goods to the BWI Airport and are relieved to unload the huge wheely bags into the checked luggage, but not thrilled to pay $55!  Both the Baltimore and New Orleans Airport at the other end of our journey are quite nice and easy to navigate. We picked up our checked baggage and picked up our Nissan Rogue without incident from Enterprise, loaded our goods and headed for Arkansas. 

Enroute, we stopped at a couple of thrift stores and picked up a folding table for $3 and a Coleman extreme 52-quart cooler for $12. Awesome! Next stop? A quick trip to Walmart and we secured two small propane tanks, paper plates, and towels.  When we travel, we most often make a nearby thrift store our first stop and Walmart our second.  

How to dispose of our purchased goods is always a challenge, depending upon our circumstances. Last year, we had a rental car for the entire trip and not only had a couple of chairs and a table, but a cooler filled with cold beer! What to do? We donated the chairs and table back easily enough, but we doubted the Salvation Army wanted the beer. 

We could drink a couple at the airport, but... then, as we turned the corner, we noticed a couple of "gentlemen" sitting in a little park at 10:30 am on a Monday. We decided to offer it to them. Well, you can imagine their reaction! Looking around for hidden cameras (or agents), they were certainly hesitant at first. But, once we explained our circumstances they eagerly accepted. 

But I digress! Our third stop before heading to the campground is always Rouses. We get the freshest, biggest shrimp at the best price every time. The rest of the grocery supplies (especially coffee and beer!) were also obtained here and at the Walmart in West-Helena, a trip about every other day.

You might be wondering if shrimp is the best grocery item for a tent camping trip. I assure you it is! I wish I could describe how good these shrimp tasted with bloody marys after sleeping on the ground that first night. To cook, we just added olive oil to the pan and sprinkled them with a little Tony Chachere's when  in the south. At home and points east, Old Bay Seasoning is our go to.

The first thing we made with the grasshopper stove was coffee, of course. We have a collapsible pour over that we steady (sometimes precariously) onto our large enamel cup, fill it with coffee and, well, pour hot water over the coffee!  

At home, we have a couple of local coffee shops we purchase from, but in the south? It's Community Coffee, of course! For some reason, the loose ground it better than the brick. Not sure why?  We buy only whole beans at home since we can grind out coffee anytime we want!:-)

Next? We cooked eggs! It is so handy to have some boiled eggs on hand when camping - we can take them on a hike, or in this case to the shows at the King Biscuit Blues Fest. Nothing is easy when cooking in a primitive setting, really. Even boiling some eggs is hard.  We usually end up putting them in the frying pan, but you have to be sure to move them around so it is cooked through. 
The frying pan on the grasshopper stove (and I guess everything now that I think about it) is challenging since the bottom of the pan is so much bigger than the burner. 

As you can see, we hadn't quite gotten too far in organizing ourselves - we had only a small box laid out to set food and dishes on. We tent-camped for 5 nights in our modest tent. We also have a screen house, which is beyond necessary and well worth the extra weight to our luggage. This year was brutally hot, over 95 and near 100 most days. Needless to say, we didn't need any of the warm weather clothes we packed! 

It is always fun to see some of the other biscuit-heads who have been attending the festival for years as well. 

 The town changes little, with a pop-up business added here or another building falling down there, it maintains the same bluesy vibe. This year I noticed a mural painting of Conway Twitty - I can't guarantee this is the first time he appeared, just the first I noticed...  

One year a liquor store owner told me he got 50-70% of his business in a year from people at this festival. Hard to believe - unfortunately, he is now out of business. 
There are street performers - I never got this fellows name, but he was quite good and I liked his look! Small stages positioned throughout town touted different performers, all good as far as I saw.  

Some stages saw more audiences if for no other reason than the much-needed shade. Each day it was a quandary as to whether or not to bother changing from sweaty clothes into clothes that would be sweaty within moments from putting them on!

If you haven't gone, it is well worth the trip...I'll share more in future posts, but rest assured - the King Biscuit is best experienced rather than read! 

Well, it's time to run - I guess that is enough for now. More of our trip later. See you soon! 

* There are some things for which there are no substitutes! It has taken me at least 40 years to figure that out.  Some brands are just the ones you need to buy, paying extra or not, in order to avoid being disappointed. Ziplocs are just one.  I may end up writing an entire post about the others. 

Mary Sherwood, MS, CDMS, CCM
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