A Visit to Airstream Country

It’s my favorite time of year, with the dog days of summer behind us, and Fall making its seasonal progression into mild days and cool evenings. The leaves haven’t quite begun their dramatic color changes or need to be dealt with, so I’m enjoying the respite these last few weeks have brought. Fall is very late this year, extending the season here, which is fine by me. It really began though, when we decided to visit Michigan in September, where the shift from summer to fall happened. I wanted to visit a place I didn’t know well, since it’s always good to learn something new. Do you want to know what I found? Michigan is Airstream Country! They are Everywhere!

The reservations we made were for a former Airstream membership park, so imagine how much we felt at home when we pulled in there. Considering we picked our site from a Fun Map (where nothing is to scale, or as it should be!) we were happy with our spot. Here is my view out the door of the RollingSilver2ndHome, at Silver Lake, near Traverse City, Michigan.  I could really like it here!

View from the bluffs at Silver Lake.  Not bad!

View from the bluffs at Silver Lake. Not bad!

In exploring the RV park, we saw more Airstreams than we’ve ever seen in one place, short of being at a rally. Not only were they scattered throughout, there was a storage lot, full. Who knew that such a great number were living in Michigan?

Airstreams in Storage

Airstreams in Storage

Michigan Airstreams in Airstream Country.

Michigan Airstreams in Airstream Country.

Time Again for Planning and Preparing

After an unusual summer of almost perfect weather, it was simply too nice to go anywhere. Sometimes you have to appreciate what is right in front of you, especially when it happens so rarely! The last two weeks of August turned hot; a good time to consider the next adventure and make some plans. While thinking over options, I took the time to consider making more “improvements” to how we travel with our Stuff. After seeing Skruben’s brilliant strategy on Pinterest for adding a compact spice pantry by repurposing Tic-Tac boxes, I knew this was one I had to implement. Here’s my version, which takes one-third the amount of space I had been using. In addition, I was also able to add greatly to the variety I was bringing with me. Other basic pantry staples were added like baking soda, baking powder, yeast and cornstarch. The amount that fits into the Tic-Tac container measures 6 teaspoons (or 3 Tablespoons), which works well for the length of time I spend traveling in the RollingSilver2ndHome. THANK YOU Skruben, for improving my storage options by sharing your idea with the world! My little home became much more organized, while freeing up some much needed space.

Spice Pantry

Spice Pantry

Another improvement I wanted to make was finding better pantry storage options that actually fit my cabinets. I’ve tried many different things, and after a trip to Home Goods and Marshall’s, these square, stacking containers caught my eye. They are big enough to store the things we use most, in the amounts we use them, for the time we are typically gone. I bought all that I could find, which turned out to be exactly enough. There was just enough room left in my pull-out pantry for a long drawer bin, which fit oils and liquid things like extracts, vinegar and sauce ingredients. This made me happier than you can imagine, since I’ve been struggling since the beginning, with how this should all fit together. FINALLY, a working solution I can live with, and don’t ever have to reconfigure again!

It has taken me almost two years to figure this out.

It has taken me almost two years to figure this out.

Now, because my pantry space is very small, and I actually cook, there is still Not Quite Enough Space for everything else, which might include a can, a small jar, bottle, or box of something. I also make my own mixes to take with me for things like pancakes or pizza, so a solution of a different type was needed. The idea is to purposely keep it small, and clear open bins in the bottom of my clothes closet are my choice for getting into quickly and easily. After a whole lot of tweaking, I think I’ve finally figured out how to manage my stuff, in a way that will actually work. It feels like a breath of fresh air just swept through my little kitchen.

Satellite Storage

Satellite Storage

Since I’m planning ahead, I also took some time and made some Sweet Buttery Rolls to put in my freezer. These turn into small sandwich buns from there, and you might say they are “Just Right!” After talking to a friend who asked what I’d been doing this summer, the conversation went something like this: “Well…I’ve been testing dinner roll recipes to find the one we like best. You know how when Thanksgiving comes around, and everyone looks forward to the dinner rolls? If they aren’t good, it’s a terrible disappointment! No one should be disappointed at Thanksgiving.” She agreed with me and said, “I can’t make rolls. I hate to make them.   My rolls are always a different size, and never turn out. I won’t even try any more.” I said, “Oh, I can tell you how to fix That. You just need a different technique!” After spending some time in my personal Test Kitchen, THIS is the recipe you want if you want to be Dinner Roll Queen for the holidays.

SWEET BUTTERY DINNER ROLLS
1 cup warmed milk ( 110 degrees F.)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
3/4 t. salt
4 cups bread flour
1 T. instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in the bread pan of your bread machine. Select the dough setting and press start.

When the dough cycle has finished, remove dough from the pan. Form the dough into a disc, and place into a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and let rest for 10 minutes. After resting, divide the dough into 16 pieces* and shape as desired. Place 12 rolls into a buttered 9 x 13 inch pan, and the remaining four into a smaller buttered pan (or shape into sandwich buns).

*NOTE: To shape the dough evenly into 16 pieces, turn the dough out onto a board (or silicone kitchen mat/Silpat). With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into half. Cut each half into half for four pieces, each of those into half for 8, and again until there are 16. Each piece will be approximately the same size.

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.

Cover the rolls and place in a warm spot to rise, around 20 to 35 minutes. After putting the rolls in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

Bake approximately 25-30 minutes on the upper and lower rack of the oven. Switch the pans hallway through the baking time (after 13 minutes), and bake until golden brown.

When the rolls are golden brown, remove the pans from the oven. Brush the tops with softened butter.

*****************

Revel in being your family’s Dinner Roll Queen. Enjoy the attention; You deserve it! The only problem here, is you will be expected to make the dinner rolls from now on, for every occasion. It may be good to be Queen, but be prepared for the responsibility that will become yours alone, unless you are willing to share the recipe and teach others. You decide!

I just have to ask…What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast? Am I the only one who thinks the rolls are the best part?

Dutch Oven Cooking Weekend

Dutch Oven cooking has been on my mind. I gave up cooking with coals years ago, opting for a nice outdoor grill, powered by propane. You know, there’s a time of life you need to get things done! Having said that, many of my favorite kitchen tools are made of cast iron, so I know well the advantages of cooking with it at home. The idea of using a Dutch oven over/under coals to cook meals is a new challenge for me, and one I’m interested to take on.

In celebration of Earth Day at a Missouri state park last weekend, a Dutch Oven demonstration was included. Why not take the RollingSilver2ndHome, and get my Dutch Oven mojo going?

We spent the weekend at Knob Noster State Park in Missouri, with Teresa as our host. She made it look easy, which is exactly what I needed. After realizing that getting started was the hardest part, I was ready to begin. Bread was my choice, so I’d have a clear visual of how the coals baked and browned. I wanted real bread, not biscuits, or anything out of an exploding can, and made a 1 pound loaf of brioche. The bread dough was made before the demonstration, and would be ready for me, after the first rise. I kneaded the bread, oiled the dutch oven, put the loaf in and slashed the top. After the second rise of an hour, the bread took about 50 minutes to bake; about the same time it would have taken in my oven at home.

This bread made me happy.

This bread made me happy.

I also attempted to make a vegetable tempura, which I’ve done successfully many times, but didn’t work out for me in this situation. Although the oil got hot enough to bubble, it never got hot enough to brown the tempura. (Oh! The coals should go under the pot, not around…of course!) Even though we ate one experiment but not the other, do you know how sometimes, you learn more from your failures? At least my little pot got a good coating of seasoning. Fortunately, my success encouraged me to try my failure again, soon. (I’m tenacious that way.)

Before I left for this adventure in outdoor cooking, a stop was made to
my favorite thrift store, to search for items I might add to my Dutch Oven arsenal. I’ve been shopping in this place for at least ten years, and I took a cast iron press to the front desk to inquire about the price. “Oh you can just have that,” my friend said. When I protested, she said, “No, you don’t understand. I’ve had that thing since I first opened this place, 32 years ago.” I understood this, in the way that sometimes you need to let old things go, to make room for what’s new. We laughed, and I especially appreciated the story that came with my new/old press. I am happy to become the new caretaker for this old-fashioned tool. After scrubbing it with hot water and rubbing it vegetable oil, I set it on top of the coals to season. Thank You Miz Blackwell…you are a Kansas City treasure, and will always be a personal favorite of mine!

P1010261

Spring Break and Camping At Home

The latest plans involving the RS2ndH include camping in our driveway. We have family visitors coming to spend their Spring Break with us, which is always fun to look forward to! To expand our experience and to give everyone a little more privacy, we park the Airstream on the driveway and treat it like our personal guest house. It’s really the ultimate camping experience, as my driveway is one of the best “campgrounds” I’ve visited. Of course I prefer it with some leaves on the trees, as the filtering effect they give are soft, colorful and inviting. Not this time of year however. Spring will be late this year, even though it was 83 degrees a few days ago. In fact, we’re expecting three more storms in less than a week. I’m hoping they don’t become EVENTS. In fact, timing for fetching our Guest House might be as tight as it was for taking it back to its underground home last time. Welcome to Kansas.

Last year, we washed our Rolling Home before putting it in the driveway. Airstream Gleam is a special sight! It made me so happy to look out the window, but only lasted about 45 minutes until the green pollen came down off the oak trees. EVERYWHERE. Like fine dust, that keeps on coming. That’s right. It’s always something, isn’t it?

In anticipating our visitors, I tested a new recipe. Shared on All Recipes as being served by the Tuck U Inn at Glick Mansion in Atchison, Kansas, I had to try it. I’m so glad I did…it’s going on my regular breakfast menu! For Bacon Lovers!

SPICED BACON TWISTS

1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 T. dry mustard powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 pound sliced bacon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack over the foil. Use a rimmed baking sheet, to catch the grease.

Stir together the brown sugar, mustard powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Pour a little of the mixture onto a platter and press each slice of bacon into it until coated. If desired, twist each strip a few times into a spiral, or lie the strip flat and place onto the prepared baking rack. Cook the bacon for 30 minutes if thin sliced, 55-60 minutes for thick sliced, country style.

Note: Twisting the bacon not really necessary, but nice if presentation is important. I personally like lying it flat, as it fits really well on bread or an English Muffin for a bacon sandwich. It’s worth making more of this than you need, as leftovers are simply divine.

Favorite Breakfast

Since we are in a Retrograde phase, I’ll begin by going backwards and revisit one of my favorite things on this last trip. With all the snow on the ground, and people staying home because of the storm, the opportunity for a real breakfast presented itself. There was only one thing to make. Migas. Texas was our quick destination this time in the RS2ndH. I had an opportunity to try different versions of Migas several times, but thought I could improve slightly upon what I had tasted. This happens often to people who cook. I don’t do crafts, preferring instead to craft food I want to eat. You know, the kind people talk about later, and yearn for again. I mean, we all have to eat, don’t we?

Oh…These are So GOOD. It was a perfect breakfast for staying in. You must try them. So you can, here they are.

MIGAS MY WAY

Corn tortillas, 9 (3 sliced and fried; 6 to steam for soft tacos)
1/2 cup peanut oil

2 T. butter
1 T. light olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced small
1/2 cup refried beans
3 large eggs, or 4 small to medium
1 T. sour cream
1-2 T. salsa; extra if desired

MAKE AHEAD: Cut three corn tortillas into quarters, and then into 1/2 inch strips. Heat a cast iron pan, and 1/2 cup peanut oil on medium heat until shimmering. Sprinkling a small handful of strips into the oil, fry until golden brown. Pull the tortilla strips out of the oil and let dry on a couple of paper towels to absorb extra oil. Sprinkle with a little salt while still warm. Repeat the process until all the strips have been fried crisp and golden. Set aside.

Pour the extra oil out of the pan. Melt 1 T. butter and light olive oil in the cast iron pan. Saute the diced onion in the butter on medium heat stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and browned, 25-30 minutes.

Heat 1/2 cup refried beans, and steam 6 corn tortillas.

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Stir in the sour cream and whisk together. Add the sauted onions and 1 T. salsa, stirring together. Preheat the pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 T. butter and spread it evenly around the pan. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet. Add the crispy tortilla strips, and stir. Turn the heat down to low, add shredded cheese and cook until eggs are almost set. Turn off the heat and put the lid on, until the eggs are set but not dry. Spread a Tablespoon of refried beans onto a steamed corn tortilla and top with the Migas mixture, salsa and sliced avocado (or any preferred condiments), rolling the corn tortilla tightly, to eat.

Note: If the refried beans have been prepared properly, they will already be seasoned with garlic, onion, cumin and salt, helping add the right amount of flavor to the Migas. The first layer of beans also helps the egg filling stick to the tortilla, so you don’t lose it halfway to your mouth. Additional toppings might include slivers of crispy bacon, sliced avocado, sour cream, salsa, cilantro, or pico de gallo.

Serves 2

You want some of this.

You want some of this.

Our timing was very good. The RollingSilver2ndHome went back to its underground home, right before the snow started building up.

After the driveway was cleared.  The total before some of it melted was 20 inches.

After the driveway was cleared. The total before some of it melted was 20 inches.

Home Again & Another Mercury Retrograde

Mercury is in Retrograde again, which rules travel and communications, and is a time of going over old ground. Between my last post and this one, we squeezed in a work trip with the RS2ndH, with many retrograde themes in evidence. I felt much of our old ground had to do with weather, and how to avoid it while traveling! One of our greatest exercises is learning to develop schedule flexibility for safe travel. Last week, a huge storm dumped 10 inches of snow on my neighborhood, which we missed. That was fine by me, but when we pulled onto our street after arriving back home, all that snow on our driveway needed removed before we could pull the RS2ndH in. Additionally, another 10-15 inch Weather Event is on its way, right NOW. It’s welcome, after a significant drought, so bring it on! Whether we’re having drought, wind, extreme temperatures, or two huge storms in a week’s time, it seems like we’re always living on the edge here. My sister-in-law who is a native-born Texan, once said to me, “I don’t understand all this Weather-Talk. Y’all talk about the weather, a lot.” Uh…You’re not from around here are you? Hmmmm. All I could surmise is she lived in a place where weather didn’t happen. Of course, when one doesn’t have to own a winter coat, gloves, snow blower or shovel, and thinks 40 degrees is cold, I just might have had a good clue!

It was nice getting acquainted again with the RollingSilver2ndHome. Since we’re going over old ground, I had to note that one of the things working for us on the inside was the closet reorganization I had done, weeks earlier. Things were so much easier to access and find, and made living in our little home more efficient. A small knife block I had bought for all our sharp instruments was working very well, which I noted especially after realizing I’d used, cleaned and easily put away every one of them. About half our spices were used, and seems to be working as well. We’re loving the Lounge, the floor we had replaced, and have finally figured out the lock on the shower door. (Yes, I know. Funny isn’t it, how the smallest things sometimes need to be figured out?) Everything from the fabric loops I attached to our towels to hang from hooks, to the “just right” sized memory foam rug in front of the shower is working. Outside, there’s a feeling of security now that we have better wheels, tires and tire monitoring system in place. With a comprehensive checklist and a little experience, our routines have been honed, and given us a feeling of knowing what to expect and how much time it takes to get there.

The end of Mercury Retrograde is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Since it rules travel and communications, please double-check before pulling out into traffic. Appointments you may have made most likely will need to be rescheduled. (That’s already happened to me…Weather Event, Anyone?) If you’re having a feeling of taking one step forward, and two steps back, that’s what it’s about. Someone may say to you “go left”, and mean “go right.” It seems we are required to go over old ground, so something we need to learn or discover can be revealed. How we deal with it depends on how much we’re paying attention. If you believe things work out according to timing, Mercury Retrograde will be easier for you to manage. Really, you may as well surrender. For now, just give in, and know that in a few weeks time, matters will smooth themselves out. Until then, take care of those things you can control, and go clean out a closet!

Wind Advisories

Remember “Weather Permitting?” Well, it isn’t. Permitting any kind of travel that is. I’ve been watching the trees blowing around outside, and I’m already exhausted by it. There were Wind Advisories the last two days and wind gusts up to 45 mph. The last time the RS2ndH smacked up against 45 mph winds, once we were safely parked in one place, much alcohol was consumed. There was awning flappage, research and repairs needed. Since I’ve already been there, I don’t need to do THAT again. Now, I grew up in the plains, where wind is a likely occurrence. We scoff at warnings to people to secure trash cans and lids, and patio furniture. Of course you do. Because you never know when the wind is going to kick up. Weather happens here. In fact, they are frequently called Weather Events, because they are eventful.

This time, we checked intensively before heading anywhere. Often. Because things can change in an instant. Better Half mentioned we are more fortunate than our parents who traveled in a similar manner, without the benefit of mobile devices to warn of weather as they headed off to their destination. Now we can prepare ourselves with High Definition Radar, Torcon Index and Weather Advisories, with hourly predictions of what kind of conditions to expect. Isn’t technology great?

Fortunately, there were some extra days scheduled into the plan for just this type of event. Even though it’s February, spring has come early here. Sometimes, you simply have to go with the flow…unless there’s too much airflow to go.