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?

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.

Acupuncture and RV Cooking

How do these two relate to each other you might ask? Well, I just started getting Acupuncture for a chronic problem I’ve had for YEARS. The good news is it’s helping! With January’s theme of Organizing in mind, and because of what needs acupuncture, my style of cooking has been to prepare dishes ahead of time. This way when issues flare, there’s always real food ready to go. When we get the opportunity to travel, there is something I can always raid from my freezer because previous meals were “banked”. Recent “deposits” have been things like 10-layer lasagna, Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup, Braised Beef Enchiladas, Chicken Enchilada Soup, Cornmeal and Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes. What could be better than homemade fast food? Not only is it comfort food, there’s comfort in knowing what is in it.

Regardless of how you feel about meat, fat, dairy, gluten, salt or carbs, I embrace the principle of “everything in moderation”. Pre-portioned meals for later works for me and is perfect for RV travel. In fact, when it comes to cooking in the RS2ndH, I subscribe to the KISS principle. (Although there are variations of this, I’m going with, Keep It Super Simple.) There’s a fine line for me about how much cooking I want to do when I’m on the road, especially when there are opportunities to experience regional foods. I like to do both, and like the Boy Scouts, find it’s good to be prepared!

Recently, I tried a new recipe in my slow cooker. Now, I’ve never made friends with my slow cooker, since most the recipes I’ve tried end up exactly like this one did when I first tasted it. I almost tossed the whole mess, before wondering how I could add some layers of flavor. The adaptation salvaged a very bland dish, by adding some body and…TWANG. (Not Tang, but Twang; a very important distinction.) In fact, after a day or two passed, I wasn’t entirely certain it was as good as I remembered until I tried it the second time. IT IS. (Maybe we can be friends after all.) Lucky Me, there’s a quart in my freezer, just waiting for the next trip.

My secret ingredients involved browning an onion, making a roux, adding some spices, a little fat and…Bacon. (Don’t Freak Out. Remember…Everything in moderation.) I am fortunate to have Penzey’s in the area, so that’s where I get my spices. The first paragraph is the recipe as I found it originally. The rest is all mine. I’m pretty sure you’ll want some of this, so here you are.

LET’S BE FRIENDS SAUSAGE CORN CHOWDER

1 lb. ready to eat smoked sausage, cut in half lengthwise and into 1/2 inch slices (Kielbasa)
3 cups cubed potatoes, diced medium small
2 onions, large and medium dice
1 red bell pepper, large dice
1-15 oz. can cream style corn
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups and 1/4 cup chicken broth, divided

Parmesan cheese rinds, 6 pieces

3 slices bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch horizontal strips and cooked crisp

2 T. bacon fat
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
2 cups milk
1 t. Fine Herbes
1 t. Mural of Flavor
1 t. salt
2 T. Peppercorn Ranch dressing base
2 large cloves garlic, minced

Place sausage, potatoes, onion, carrots, bell pepper, bay leaf and Parmesan cheese rinds in a slow cooker. Combine soup, corn and 2 cups broth, mixing together. Add to the cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 3-1/2 hours.

One half hour before serving, brown one medium diced onion in 2 T. bacon fat. on medium heat. Add the salt halfway through, and finish browning. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup chicken broth. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a skillet. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute. Add the milk slowly, stirring with a whisk, until mixture has thickened. Stir in the Peppercorn Ranch Dressing base, Mural of Flavor and Fine Herbes.

Add the thickened milk mixture, caramelized onions and garlic to the slow cooker. Cover and heat all together for 15 minutes, adding the crisp bacon at the end of the cooking time. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Serves 8-10

TIPS: Freeze the bacon before slicing into 1/4 inch strips, 30-40 minutes.

I always save the rinds of Parmesan cheese in the freezer. This soup is the perfect place to use them for a flavor boost.

Let's Be Friends Sausage Corn Chowder

Let’s Be Friends Sausage Corn Chowder

ACUPUNCTURE
If you’re in the south Kansas City area and wondering if acupuncture could help you, the answer is most likely YES. I won’t tell you how many doctors I’ve seen, trying to get some relief. You would need all the fingers on both hands to count them. THIS is who you want to see. You’ll be so glad you did. Highly Recommended by me:

Sandra Wilkes, D.O.M., L.Ac.
Blue Valley Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, P.A.
6885 W. 151st St., Suite 102
Overland Park, KS 66223
913-897-1100
http://www.BlueVallelyPT.com

Favorite Family

Combining a trip with the Airstream to visit our Favorite Family was like pairing my favorite cake with the perfect icing.  We had the honor of being the first visitors to their new home, while bringing our own little home with us.  It seemed meant to be when we were told there was a 30 amp outlet available just inside their garage, with enough driveway space for parking our RollingSilver2ndHome.  How accommodating!

If you know that experience of being welcomed with wide open arms, and the excitement of fulfillment after long anticipation, then you understand completely.  This trip had been planned for six months, so to finally arrive was the toasted nut on top of the cake.  The newest member of our family is three years old, and instantly provided me with a favorite moment when I saw him for the first time.  His mom and I went to pick him up at preschool and when we walked in, his eyes lit up.  He gave a little scream and could not contain his joy, which he expressed by running around the room in circles, like a blade on a fan whipping up the air.  There were other “moments” of blowing and catching kisses, and latching onto a gift I brought him, a camping lantern.  We had plans to go camping towards the end of our visit, and every little boy needs his own lantern, doesn’t he?  As he began providing us with “lantern stories” right away, it was a hit all around.

His big brother is seven years old, and also shared some unforgettable moments.  In anticipation of our visit, he had helped make his great-great-grandmother’s cinnamon rolls.  There are only a few of us who make these, so it is heartwarming to see him embrace this time-honored family tradition.  He received a personalized cookbook with a foam puzzle, indicating kitchen measurements.  When he read, “Two cups make a peent”, I realized pints turning into “peents” was now a new form of family measure.

There was a simple fascination with the Airstream, and I heard quite often during the visit, “I want to go out to the camper.”  When I finally figured out that “going out to the camper” meant peeing into the toilet, I realized for the little boys it was like marking their territory.  Why Not?  After all, we were all at home!

Their mom brought the best parts of “family” back to me, which had much to do with the food she planned and prepared.  Isn’t it so true that when the food is good, it feels like a holiday?  It was a feast for days!  Imagine dad’s barbecue brisket, mom’s cheesy potato casserole, grandmother’s Brookville Hotel coleslaw and cinnamon rolls, her mother’s lemon chicken, her shrimp and grits, slow cooked pork, marinade steak and home-made pizza.  Are you hungry?  Her husband shared his home-brew with us which was so good I only regret there wasn’t more to go around.  My dad (her grandfather) was there when we made a trek to his favorite shopping destination, BIG LOTS.  She was a Big Lots Virgin.  Even though he passed 10 years ago, I’m absolutely certain he was shopping with his girls that day.

We ended our visit by going camping, to a place none of us had been before, Red Run Campground.  In the heart of Lancaster County, PA, it was a perfect place to wind down our visit.  It was family friendly, and we had a great experience there, from the playground and layout of the campground to the people we met.  Who wouldn’t enjoy camping by a creek, cooking over a campfire and hearing the clip-clop of horses hooves and Amish buggies going by?  We met Robert and his family there, along with their brand new grand-daughter.  They were the nicest group and it was a pleasure to make their acquaintance.  When we first pulled into the campground with our Airstream, it was their reaction to us that made us aware this is another part of the world where Airstream sightings are also rare.  The feeling of being instantly popular is not one I’m entirely used to.  (I liked it.) It’s nice to meet Airstream admirers!   We also met Bill and Leah, who had spent time in all the parts of the country we have lived, and Chuckie & Jessie’s folks, all lovely people. It was the last camping trip with our family’s pop-up trailer, as the decision to upgrade to something easier was imminent.  We like their new SOB (Some Other Brand), and look forward to sharing more camping memories.  I believe Red Run Campground has a place in our future.

Memorable conversations were shared and a couple of campfires I won’t forget.  In fact, there was an incident involving late-night scotch, a smart phone and a campfire.  All I will say is, instead of changing the names to protect the innocent, I won’t give you any names at all.  It was however, an exercise in how worthless extended warranties are, even if you suspect something like this could likely happen in your future.   So don’t buy them.  EVER.  ‘Nuff Said.

Campfire for cooking food (and electronics) over.

Red Run Campground

877 Martin Church Road

New Holland, PA  17557

717-445-4526

If you’re a beef eater like my dad was, you want this recipe.  It’s one of those make-ahead, easy recipes that tastes like it has been in a smoker, but is slow-cooked in the oven.  In fact, I’m making it this week.

DAD’S BARBECUE BRISKET

3-4 pound brisket

2-3 T. liquid smoke (Wrights)

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. powdered onion

2 t. celery seed

1-1/2 t. salt

2 t. Worcestershire sauce

2 t. pepper, freshly ground

1 cup barbecue sauce

Cover both sides of the brisket with liquid smoke, garlic and onion powder, celery seed and Worcestershire sauce.  Place brisket in a baking pan, cover, and marinate meat in refrigerator overnight.  Add salt and pepper, covering the brisket with foil.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for five hours.  Pour off liquid and reserve.  Cool meat before slicing, against the grain.  Arrange the sliced meat in a baking pan (adding a portion of the liquid is optional.)  Brush the barbecue sauce over the sliced meat, and heat before serving.

Sudden Airstream Plans

It’s that time of life, you know?  We had no plans to take our RollingSilver2ndHome anywhere, yet life  intervenes. I guess this is what happens when you make no plans!  My mother-in-law is in the hospital and we need to go. At first we thought we’d just get in the car and stay in her apartment, but on second thought realized we’d be much more comfortable in our own little home.  There’s much to be said for sleeping in your own bed and having a chair that fits.

Image

There have been several of these last minute trips, and it always seems I’m unprepared.  There’s not much we need to take with us.  Except alcohol.  This may be the trip we need to be prepared for emotional eating.  And Drinking.  I have cake.  There was a new recipe I wanted to try, which has been in my Try Me file for quite some time.  It IS Mercury Retrograde after all, and all of this is old ground.  Last minute trip, MIL in the hospital, Goldilocks chair, Try Me recipe.  Because I want to share my cake with you, I’m giving you the DIY magic.  I’m sorry there’s no photo; you’ll just have to make it yourself.  I had a wordy review of this ready to go, but changed it because Less is More.  All you need to know is with the first bite, it was Cake Love.  Instant Favorite.  Goo Factor is Over the Top.

ALMOND JOY CAKE

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

3 1/2 T. cocoa

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Stir together flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Put water, butter, shortening and cocoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let cool until warm.

Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture and stir well. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, bake for 22 minutes or until it tests done. Cool. Cover with Coconut Icing and top with Chocolate Nut Coating.

COCONUT ICING

1 cup sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

24 large marshmallows

7 ounces shredded coconut

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan until the marshmallows are melted entirely, stirring until combined. Cool slightly, and spread on cooled cake.

CHOCOLATE NUT COATING

1/2 cup butter

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup sliced almonds

Melt butter and chocolate chips. Add nuts. Pour on top of coconut mixture. Cool. Serve.

 

 

If you’re reading this, pray for my sweet Mother-in-Law please.  She is the best anyone could have asked for.  I didn’t ask, but she was my gift anyway.

Upgrades and Installations

When the microwave fried itself (Oops!  How did that happen?), I decided to use it as an opportunity for good.  You see, it was a “good” time to replace the 10 year old microwave with a convection microwave.  As much as I like cooking with gas, propane fumes require ventilation.  Lots of ventilation.  I’m not about to get rid of my propane oven however, since there are times it can come in handy, and as someone who actually cooks, this gives me the option of double ovens.  (When it’s not in use, it’s also a handy dandy storage box which makes it dual purpose!)  A convection microwave also fulfills my Dual Purpose Rule, so it’s a Win/Win all the way around.  I decided on a Sharp, Convection Microwave, since according to the dimensions on the website, it would fit without any problems.  Well, long-freakin’-story-short, the dimensions for height were written as depth and vice versa (let’s see, lost in Chinese translation?)  It was installed with much ado, and finally plugged in to be used.

Our last trip in the RollingSilver2ndHome was to visit my mother-in-law.  How nice to have your very own home when visiting relatives!  One of the things I like to do for her is make food that she likes and freeze it in individual portions, so some of her meals are hassle free.  I decided on a Triple Corn Casserole for the first item to try in my new convection oven.  It turned out beautifully, and was a hit with her.  The recipe came from The Patrick Sisters Full Circle Dutch Oven Cookbook, and one of their most requested.  The book seems to be out of print now, so I’ll share the recipe with you.

TRIPLE CORN CASSEROLE

1 egg

1-8 ounce sour cream

1/2 cup melted butter

1/4 t. butter flavoring

1 can whole corn, drained

1 can creamed corn

1 small package Jiffy cornbread mix

Mix all ingredients together and place in a 12-inch Dutch oven, or a 2-quart baking dish in a conventional oven.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Good news!  Our floor has arrived and ready for installation soon.  I’m ready.  What was my most important lesson that week of the fried microwave?  Now that my upgrade is in place, it would be Two Words:   Surge Protector.