Char G

Char G

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What did you eat on your houseboat vacation?

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TM and I had a really cool vacation with our nephews and niece this week. We rented a houseboat in northern Minnesota and spent four nights on the boats and four days cruising around in Crane Lake, Namakan Lake and Sand Point Lake.  We saw some beautiful scenery, had lunch at Kettle Falls and met a lot of mosquitoes.

The trip took place essentially in Voyageurs National Park, a remote park centered around the water and boats. There are essentially no resorts on the water (although you can find a couple on nearby rivers and on Kabetogoma Lake) and planning is key to this vacation.

Even as avid campers, it was a bit different for us, since we can rely on having some of the basics already in the camper. Plus, we usually camp in locations where we can run to a store, if we really need to. I began my managing this vacation with a massive list, created by culling through camping lists shared by others on the Internet and by compiling a menu for the week. I knew we would be busy, so I didn’t plan any lunches, just breakfasts, snacks and dinners, plus a couple ideas for dessert.

My goal was to bring along as much “real food” as I could, but I did take a few shortcuts.  Here’s the meals we ended up with, along with some notes.

Breakfasts

Our two planned breakfasts were eggs with venison breakfast sausage and pancakes with bacon. I also had along some “breakfasty” snack items that would work for breakfast, including homemade granola bars, string cheese and fruit.  We ended up having scrambled eggs twice; the second time we had scrambled eggs, I stirred in some leftover vegetables (this is something my family affectionately calls “eggs with stuff in it.”)

Snacks

Here’s the list of snacks that I brought. We were able to mix and match these into some ”lunches” and even desserts. And as I said, a few were used for breakfast.

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Watermelon
  • Eggs that I hardboiled on the houseboat (ask me sometime how that went after TM started driving his fishing boat in circles around the houseboat and it started really rocking
  • Trail mix
  • Venison summer sausage, cheddar cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • Homemade granola bars

Dinners

The first night, we roasted hot dogs over the campfire and served them with chips and a homemade whole wheat pasta salad.  Our next dinner consisted of chicken kebabs with peppers, onions, muchrooms and cherry tomatoes and everyone pitched in to put the kebabs together. Our other two dinners had a lot in common, including baked beans and chips. But one was more hot dogs on the grill and the other was elk burgers with Italian seasoning.

Desserts

We ate more than our fair share of S’mores, but we also tried out a recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake on the Grill cooked individually in tinfoil packets.  We liked these but all agreed we could make them better the next time with a bit more brown sugar and butter for more sauce.

Tips

As I said, the key to having these meals come together is planning:

  • Start your list early. As you’re cooking in the weeks ahead, jot down additional items that you use for various meals
  • Write out the menu and then think through the details. If you want seasoned elk burgers, you need to remember to bring the seasoning.
  • Keep spices to a minimum but make them count — I brought premixed “Italian” seasoning that I used in the burgers and in the pasta salad dressing, for example. I did also bring salt, pepper and garlic seasoning.
  • Use camping lists you find on the web and Pinterest as a way to “remind” you of the basics that you might forget, like butter, olive oil, maple syrup, ….

What’s for lunch today? Including recipe for spicy watermelon soup

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I’m packing up the remnants of today’s lunch and thought I would share a picture and a recipe. I threw this lunch together last night, using whatever I could find in the kitchen.

Here’s what I had:

  • Spicy watermelon soup served cold — delicious and refreshing – I’m including the recipe below.
  • Salad made with sliced grape tomatoes, sliced multicolor peppers, a little goat cheese on top and a sprinkle of white balsamic vinegar
  • Handful of Triscuit crackers
  • Trail mix — I got this at Costco and to be fair, it’s not exactly “real food” but very close
  • Colby Jack cheese stick

I found the watermelon soup recipe in the July 14, 2014 issue of Woman’s World magazine.

Watermelon Gazpacho

5 cups coarsely chopped watermelon, plus 1 additional cup of finely chopped watermelon to stir into the soup

1/2 cup fresh cilantro (I used a couple tsps of dried)

1/2 cup chopped onion (I used red onion)

1 Tbs lime juice (I used fresh lemon juice)

1/2 cup chopped peppers (I used a mix of various colors)

2 tsp chopped jalepeno peppers (I used part of a frozen Super Chili pepper from my garden last year)

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chili powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

In a blender, combine all ingredients except the extra 1 cup of watermelon. Puree until smooth.  Chill at least one hour.

Just before serving, stir in the additional watermelon.

 

 

Delicious flavor combinations for homemade kefir

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Adding flavors to kefir during a second fermenting period is a wonderful way to add variety to your diet.  I’m planning to use this page as a running list of flavor combinations that I’ve tried.  You’ll see that one of my favorite sweeteners is maple syrup, because it is meets my own “real food” rules and still blends well.

Feel free to comment with flavors that you’ve developed.

 

  1. Blueberries sweetened with maple syrup
  2. Oranges (remove the peel but since you are blending later, some of the rind doesn’t matter), sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with about a tsp of pumpkin pie spice
  3. Red grapes sweetened with maple syrup
  4. Strawberries with maple syrup

Using kefir cheese as a delicious spicy snack

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I made another batch of kefir cheese last week and I’ve discovered a delicious way to eat it.  Slather it on a whole wheat cracker and top it with jalapeno jelly for a great snack. The sweetness in the jelly helps temper the tanginess of the cheese just enough.

Moving on to other fermented veggies

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We enjoyed the sauerkraut that I made a week or so ago, so I am trying out a few other vegetables this week. The jar on the left is carrots with basil and the one on the right is broccoli with onions and cilantro (BTW, this is a blue tinted jar and probably affects the color of how the items inside look).  I have no idea if either will be good and we won’t know for a day or so yet. The carrots don’t smell that great when you open them, but I am not a huge basil fan either, so we’ll see. The broccoli smell better when I punch them down to get them under the liquid each day.  I made both with kefir whey.  (I also have another batch of kefir cheese in the refrigerator and I am looking for a recipe to flavor it.)

Happy Birthday!

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It was TM’s birthday yesterday so I let him have the very first strawberry from the patch this year.
Here’s to many more!

Tropical popsicles

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Happy Summer!

Yeah, I think summer is finally here.  Sunday, I made some summer popsicles and popped them into the freezer. First I had to run out and buy popsicle molds, which was harder than I expected. Most out there seemed kind of cheap, but I found some nice sturdy ones.

The popsicles are just coconut milk and frozen pineapple blended together. It’s about a half cup of coconut milk and about 2 cups of pineapple chunks. You could use fresh pineapple too.  I put some blueberries in the mold before I poured in the pineapple mixture. Next time, I would put them in last so they would be better distributed.

These popsicles are very refreshing and I’m on the lookout now for other fun popsicle recipes.

Making your own sauerkraut

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It seems that my foray into making kefir is allowing me to get involved with several new foods, including kefir cheese yesterday (which I still haven’t tasted BTW) but also cultured vegetables.

Last night, I started the second ferment on a batch of kefir from the day before. This time, I tried flavoring it with pineapple and honey. It still could be a bit sweeter, so I’ll keep trying. It’s still good, just not great.

I also took out the food processor and grated a head of cabbage so I could try making my own sauerkraut. It’s in the jar now on the counter and I’ll be diligently punching it down each day.  It will take 3-4 days before we can taste it. I’m actually pretty excited about trying more cultured vegetables. I really like pickles and I think any of these vegetables might be a super easy way to put more cultured foods into our diet. Stay tuned for the taste test!

Taking kefir to the next level

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I’m barely getting the hang of making kefir but I’ve moved on in my cultured food experimentation. Right now, the dogs and I are drinking kefir (the dogs love it, BTW), but TM has been less than impressed. I am going to continue trying different flavors and see if he can be won over.

So, I tried making kefir cheese over the weekend. I think it took me longer to track down the muslin than it did to get it ready. I tried several kitchen stores looking for a muslin bag, and finally headed to the fabric store to just buy muslin fabric. Hence my ghost looking kefir getup.  I just put the kefir into the square of muslin and hung it over a large glass jar, securing it with a heavy duty rubber band. I had to adjust it by raising it up a few times during the 24 hours that it set, but it was pretty easy to do.

When it was well drained today, I stored the whey for use in cultured vegetables and seasoned the cheese with garlic powder and dill. It’s in the fridge now and I plan to taste it in a few hours.

Have you tried kefir?

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I took a class this week on how to make your own kefir, a fermented milk drink that is similar to yogurt. I learned more about the digestive health benefits of kefir in the class and also learned about how easy it is to make. I also got to taste three different flavored kefirs that the instructor had made — pineapple, mango and strawberry. I think mango was my favorite of those three.

I left the class with kefir grains and some kefir “enthusiasm” (lol) so I stopped at the grocery store to get a carton of milk so I could make some right away. It’s in the 24 hour fermenting stage now. My plan is to also do a second ferment on it with blueberries before drinking it or sharing it with TM.

I’m also looking forward to trying to make kefir cheese and some fermented/pickled vegetables from one of the future batches of kefir.

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