Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Cantina

Sometimes we like to invent new recipes. Here is one I thought up while snoozing on the train ride home from work. It utilizes ingredients that will almost always be on hand, since everything but the toppings can be stored in the pantry or the freezer.

Cantina Chicken and Couscous
Makes 5 servings
(Or 3 if your family eats like mine)

1 C Mediterranean couscous blend
1 3/4 C water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
1/2 yellow or red onion (or both combined)
1 clove garlic, diced
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp Stubbs Spice Rub for chicken
1 chicken breast
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained. 
Fresh corn kernels, sliced off one cob. If using frozen, about 1/3 C kernels
1 fresh lime, washed and sliced into half moons

Chalula sauce
1/2 fresh avocado, diced
grated cheddar cheese
fresh lime juice

Bring 1 3/4 C water to a boil. Add the couscous blend reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18 minutes. Allow to rest with the lid on for a few minutes when done. Stir in a little olive oil and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add diced onion, chicken and Stubbs spice rub and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. Sauté until no pink shows on the chicken. Add the garlic and the sliced limes and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the beans and the corn and cook another 3 minutes. Using a spoon, add the tomatoes in 3 batches to avoid over wetting the mixture. Continue to cook on low-medium heat for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Serve over couscous and enjoy with toppings. If you like cilantro, that would taste good also. But I don't like cilantro, so I don't recommend it. 

A Quarter Century

So on Monday, Jared turned 25. GASP!!

We celebrated with lots of family, two days in a row. We got to see WWZ, which was extreme, frightening, and intriguing. Neither of us are really into the zombie scene, but we were entertained and pleased at the end. Some die-hard zombie fans wouldn't like this movie though since the zombies move uncharacteristically fast. I just thought it gave them an added frightening edge. I did get REALLY good as zombie impressions. Ask me to do it for you. I make Jared jump every time.

We finally had a chance to celebrate the way I had planned, on Wednesday. Although frustrated at the time, at not being able to make a special dinner and dessert on his actual birthday, good things come to those who wait. Check out the good things we ate.

 Jared loves pie. So we, meaning I, made a raspberry apple pie for dessert. While that was baking, we made dinner. Chicken cordon blue. Another of Jared's faves. He kept saying I could just buy the box kind, but seriously? No. I always opt for homemade when possible.

 Apple Raspberry Pie

Mix 2 1/2 C flour, 1/3 C sugar, 1/4 tsp salt. 
Cut in 1 C cold butter until it makes pea sized lumps.
Add 1/4 C ICE water until mixed, again use cutting technique to combine.
Roll out into 2 crusts.

(adapted from Sur la Table)
8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 C frozen raspberries
2 TB fresh lemon juice
4 TB unsalted butter
1/2 C sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Toss the apples and raspberries with the lemon juice in a large bowl. In a large skillet, melt 2 TB butter over medium high heat. Add half the fruit mixture and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook, stirring often for about 7 minutes, or until the apples are barely tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl or baking sheet, and add the remaining fruit, butter and sugar to the skillet, cooking for 7 minutes until barely tender. Let the filling cool completely, then sprinkle the flour and cinnamon over the filling and toss well to coat. 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour your work surface and first roll crust out. Using the rolling pin, transfer the first crust into the bottom of the pie pan and pierce with a fork. The crust should hang slightly over the edges. Next, gently spoon the filling into the crust. Roll out second crust, and again using the rolling pin, gently lay the second crust on top of the filling. Trim the edges of the crusts and press them together using a fork. Slice a few holes in the top crust to let steam escape as the pie bakes. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 with foil around the edges. Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees, remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. 

Let cool before serving. This allows the pie to hold its shape, and it wont ooze as it does in the above picture (we didn't want to wait). 

Note. We made this pie on Wednesday. Today is Saturday and there is only one piece left. Jared last night said, "I love pie for every meal." And that's how he's been having it.

 Chicken Cordon Blue
from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook
adapted to make 2 servings and fit our needs

2 chicken breasts
2 slices quality ham (about 1/16 in thick)
2 slices swiss cheese (about 1/24 in thick)

IKEA gravy sachet
Fresh steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, put the chicken breasts on it, and cover with an additional piece of plastic wrap. Pound the chicken breasts flat, and attempt to do this into the shape of a rectangle, with the smooth edge of a meat mallet. If you don't have one, a wooden spoon also works. 
Remove plastic wrap and place ham and swiss on top of flattened chicken.
Roll chicken up and secure with a toothpick. Note, if you don't have a tooth pick, pieces of raw spaghetti noodles also work. 
In a hot skillet, melt some butter and cook the chicken breasts until the juices run clear and there are no pink spots left in the chicken. Note, we cooked on low-med heat covered with a lid for the first 10 minutes. Then we removed the lid and turned up the heat to give it a nice brown crisp, about another 10-15 minutes. 

Serve with veggies and gravy. Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before eating.  If you use spaghetti noodles, you can eat them. 

Les Grandes Tetons

What an adventure Jared and I had last weekend. I took a day off of work because we both really wanted to get OUT of Utah. When I say both of us, I mean mostly me.

Since I have been dying to go camping for the last few weekends, this was the perfect opportunity to do so, a long weekend, in-laws with camping gear we could borrow, a car full of gas, and the determination to drive 7 hours to get there. That drive could not have been more worth it.

Gotta love PB and Honey, the perfect hiking lunch.
Jared recently told me he ONLY likes white bread for PB sandwiches...spoiled. 

Hiking South from String Lake trailhead to Jenny Lake
Since they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, I won't labor over describing how beautiful those mountains are, I'll just post many many pictures. My first glimpse of them was breathtaking, as they peeked over the edge of the Idaho horizon under a stormy gray sky, and it just kept getting better as we got closer.

We picked the perfect time of year to go, as the crowds were small, the air temperature cool (in the 60's and 70's the whole time), and the campsites plentiful.

Gotta love the green. I miss the trees. This weekend in Utah is registering +100 F. The thought of that is pure torture, just wait till tomorrow gets here. Yuck.

 Can you see the rainbow in this shot? It's there very faintly. Plus one point for awesome capture. Way to go Al.

All along the shores of Jenny Lake, I kept stopping and saying, "can you hear that!?" Jared would reach for the bear spray.

No, Jared, the sound of waves down there on the rocks. I love the sound of waves.

Jared demonstrating that he will either:

A. Crush this hike
B. Fight the bears with our fists
C. Turn into Superman. any case, I love him.

So, see the marmot over there on the right? This animal was strange. We kept hearing rustles in the bushes, and thought it was a chipmunk or a squirrel. We were wrong five times when this huge (size of a large cat) animal would pop out in front of us. They were not shy of humans at all.

This tree trunk actually asked me to a take a picture of it. Truth.

Of course I had to oblige. How often is it that trees speak to you? Unless you're a hobbit of course...


Hidden Falls. Seriously hidden, but worth finding. 

In addition to the marmots, we saw a few pronghorn antelope, a red fox and at least 4 French families. Jared wondered why so many French. My only explanation, which I gave in jest, was that there must be some link to the French and the name of this mountain. I mean, Le Grand Teton en francais, basically means, the Big Tit, so there must be a loving relationship between them and the mountain. If that isn't typical of French culture I don't know what is. I guess hiking and exploring the outdoors, which the French also enjoy.

So, remember how I said I had many many pictures? Well here you go. This trip was also an excuse to be artsy. I indulged just a teensy bit.

 We chose Colter Bay as our campground, and we definitely would like to go there again, it is right on the shores of Jackson Lake, which is the largest lake in the park, and affords stunning views of the Tetons. We enjoyed lots of good camp food: Jared ate an entire package of Hebrew National hotdogs (minus the one I ate) as we roasted them on the fire.

We learned a valuable lesson about camping: it is important that each person have a role. Jared and I divided responsibilities at the campsite.

I think this helped us to avoid conflict and arguments. Jared set up the tent. I made the fire and did the food. I realize we reverted back to caveman type roles, but it worked out for the best since when Jared tried to stoke the fire he ended up putting it out completely. Fortunately, I was able to get it lit again.
We love hiking, and the outdoors, and each other, and selfie shots. 

After our long hike ( 9 miles in 5 hours) we ate all those hotdogs, beans tomatoes, cleaned up so the bears wouldn't get us. Sprayed ourselves down with bug spray. Yes, the kind with DEET and walked right over to Jackson lake. It took us 2 minutes. The perfect spot. Commence photo shoot.

 Jared is really good a skipping rocks. I'm serious. This picture just doesn't show that skill. I was just being artsy.

Since you aren't supposed to take the rocks with you. I took pictures of the rocks. Beautiful, no?

Look at that sky. I wish all skies looked like that. Big, grand and beautiful.

Haha, yes. I did this. Stacking rocks. I couldn't resist. ironic since we ended up sleeping on rocks the whole night and we both woke up bruised. Next time we need to get better sleeping pads.

Dawn was cold, as it always is camping. So what better way to warm up than with a hot breakfast of skillet scrambled eggs, toast and honey. 

The recipe for below toast is a blue ribbon winner. How do I know? Jared ate 5 slices. Here's what you do. Get a cast iron skillet really hot. Put in a slab of butter and rub piece of bread in it, then let it get toasty. Flip. Serve topped with scrambled eggs and honey. It takes just like French toast without all the mess and ingredients.

 Alex cooks. Jared eats.

And eats some more.

Alex gets jealous, and steals Jared's food when he isn't looking.

Typical Saturday morning, so why should camping be any different?
Our bear box. They have one of these at all the camp spots. A great idea. One of those crazy adventure junkies should cover themselves in honey and lock themselves up inside to see if the bears really can get in or not.

Like that documentary  I saw once where this man built a "tough as nails" glass box, took it to Africa, and locked himself inside with a camera. Did I mention that his buddy put a slaughtered antelope on top?

That guy was attacked by lions all night long. Cool documentary. Watch it sometime, and rejoice in your sanity.

Back to the Tetons.

The Evans family has a tradition that started during the many European adventures we had.

Snickers bars are the preferred energy food. They are perfect, sweet and salty, and coated in chocolate. And if I'm going to eat something like that, I'd much rather have it in candy bar form rather than something gross like a FiberOne bar etc.

Dont judge us until you've tried it. You're life will change.

The small and middle Tetons. Unfortunately, the Grand Teton was covered in cloud most of the morning. We spent a few hours hiking to Bradley and Taggart Lakes. Very pretty. 

He's tough and gnarly, braving the rapids.
She loves butterflies and nature walks. 
They are a perfect pair. 

Our first view of Bradley Lake. This might have been my favorite lake of all the ones we hiked to. We decided that the next time we come up to Teton NP, we need to rent a kayak or two and spend the whole trip paddling around.

Alright! There's that mountain! Way to go Snickers! You got us through another 5 mile hike!

It pays to be huge. Your wife will take a picture and put it online. 
Toughness, Jared vs mountain. 
With only a Snickers bar. 

You can't see the back side of this log from the photo, but this is the worlds largest natural teeter totter. 

Moos has the BEST ice cream in Jackson, if not the best ice cream I have ever tasted. It is fresh made and organic. A perfect afternoon treat to enjoy in the sun at Jackson Hole.

Hiker a la mode. 

Enjoying this place like a fat kid in a candy store...oh wait...

Sorry Dahling, I'd love to stay, but I really mustache. 
Peace out Jackson.

Commence series of wild poppies. I love poppies. 

Wait, that's not a poppy. No, it's Jared getting ready to enjoy his birthday dinner at a cute local Italian restaurant in Driggs. He got a calzone as big as his head. I'm sad I didn't get a picture, but I guess that gives us an excuse to go back again. Also, if you ever drive through Driggs on a Friday morning, they have a wonderful farmer's market. We stopped on our way into Jackson, and sampled some of the best cheeses this side of the pond (raw goats milk and cows milk cheeses), looked fondly at beautiful craft projects that don't involve headbands for your babies (which is what the Provo Farmer's Market is RIDDLED with. Gross) and I actually ogled at the beautiful produce. I'm sad we couldn't get any. But, here's to hoping that the next place we move will have a great farmer's market.

All in all a perfect weekend. 

Happy Tails!

 Look at these beauties who wished us farewell on the drive home.

Jared indulged me COMPLETELY since he pulled over to the side of the road just to let me take pictures of horses.

I felt like I was channeling to energy of my father as I ran through the bushes, camera in hand, in the attempt to get the perfect shot.

Dad used to do that when we would take vacations. I remember once, we were driving in the rain, and we kids were all starving, I was probably 6. Suddenly, Dad stops the car, gets out in the rain and walks over to a pond, where he commences to squat down low and take pictures of the rain drops splashing the surface. Granted, he got some very cool pictures that later ended up on the walls in the house, but at the time all I thought was, "Dad, where are going, again?"

 Oh yes, and happy Trails as well. Until next time folks.