Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

I’m kicking back on the couch after another fine Turkey diner.  Today’s was mine cooked in the dutch oven.  It has become our household favorite.  Yesterday we had a Turkey diner down at my brother’s in Denver.  His was more traditional with stuffing inside etc. At 19 pounds his beat mine by a bit.  My dutch oven is pretty big but a bird that big is just not going to fit.  I had a little trouble getting my 12 pounder inside.  Tori and I were the only ones eating it today, even though the girls are here…for some odd ball reason they have yet to fall in love with slow roasted turkeys.  Tori and I went super simple on the secondary fixin’s with some basic cornbread stove top stuffing.  I was able to prep the bird in about 5 min…slow roasted it all day and then about another 15 minute for cranberries with honey and the stuffing.  With it being that simple we may have to do this more often.

The bird came out looking just like last time as seen in this post.

I’ve spent the last few days tweaking the Bookcases I completed a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that the powder post beetles have been awakened by the warm temps in my clients home.  They never really came to life when I was working in the shop since it is so cold down there.  I think I have got the problem squared away with some borate treatments and some additional sealing with some CA.  I’ve got just a little touch up finishing to do.

Russian Olive Bookcase


Tori and I will be heading down to the cabin for the actual Thanksgiving break.  Life at the cabin will be thankful indeed.  I’ve got another dozen pieces of Blue Stain T&G and hope to get some tyvek up on the back of the cabin.  The front is looking pretty good since my painting over the 4th.  Has it really been that long?


Read Full Post »

I’m not much of a fan of pre-package and processed foods, but I do have cravings now and then. About 2 weeks ago while getting some Bocca patties for the girls (it is one of the few things they like) I noticed a stuffed turkey thing in the same freezer case as the Bocca’s.  It looked yummy so I picked it up. Tori and I had it on a non- kid night and it was awesome.  Its a veggie thing but you would never know…TVP has come a long long way since those “patty things” the hash slingers use to serve in the high school cafeteria.

Yummy stuffed turkey things

Yummy stuffed turkey things

I just put these in the oven after talking to Tori on Googley talk.  I picked up this package a few days ago.  These remind me of a story about my aunt making Chicken Cordon Bleu from some cooking class to impress a man…it worked.  He was impressed but it was the only thing she learned to make.  These do not have cheese in them but are just fine with out it.

We will pair this with  salads with avocado and tomatoes.  Tick -tock…11 more minutes in the oven.  Can you tell I’m Hungry?

Read Full Post »

35 pounds of Green Coffee Beans

Let the roasting begin…we were dangerous low on coffee last week…less than 1 pound in the entire house.  Then Bart our wonderful UPS driver dropped off the above shipment.  The large bag in the lower left is 5 pounds of Monsooned Malabar AA the stuff on the right is 10 pounds of the Monkey blend Espresso and  20 pounds of Costa Rican Hernan Solis Villa Sarchi.  This week we have bee drinking the Monkey blend.

I get some of my beans from Sweet Maria’s  in Oakland CA,  One of the beauties of roasting your own is the economy of it…even with shipping I can get this great stuff for less than $6 a pound.  By comparison the stale stuff at the supermarket runs 11 to 13 a pound.  I have been a fan of the monsooned for years and I also have a weakness for the brightness of Central American coffee like this Costa Rican private estate lot.

The above cupping score is for the Hernan Solis lot.  The description from Sweet Maria’s is as follows:

“This is a microlot is processed at Helsar del Zarcero mill, but is not a blended mill lot. It is from the farm of one producer, Hernan Solis, and is entirely one varietal of coffee, Villa Sarchi. Villa Sarchi cultivar is a natural offspring of the old Bourbon type coffee, adapted to the climate of Costa Rica and the Naranjo area in particular. Hernan’s farm is at 1600-1700 meters in a zone called Llano Bonito de Naranjo. The significance of the Helsar mill handling all Hernan’s coffee is key to the cup quality as well. You can grow great coffee from a great varietal at great altitude, then ruin it completely in the wet-process or drying. Helsar is a farmer-owned mill that has produced great coffee every year we have worked with them, and has continued to invest in their neighbors’ coffees as well by building more capacity to process small lots separately. The care put into this coffee at all stages is proven out by the taste. It’s a bright cup and also possesses nice body and balance. It’s a screamer, a high-toned coffee at City roast, but quite balanced at Full City roast level. It is versatile.

The dry fragrance has a lot of milk chocolate and caramel sweetness at Full City roast, with toasted almond and buttery sweetness at lighter levels. In the wet aromatics, there is the scent of roasted hazelnut and orange peel. City+ roast has the best aromatics, with complex hints of citrus flower, hibiscus and plum. There is an intriguing winey fruited note in the aroma as well. The cup is outstanding: There are grace notes of peach tea, plum, citrus, a little lemon rind, and plum (at FC roast). Light roasts have a more almond-hazelnut roast tone, fading to tangy and crisp chocolate flavor in the finish. It changes quite a bit as the temperature drops, and stone fruit flavors come out. The cup character is very balanced in body and brightness at darker roast levels. The body isn’t that heavy, but has a very syrupy quality. My lightest roasts, City level, tasted fairly thin but had a great zesty brightness. I suggest City+ roast for the best cup, a marriage of brightness and sweet cup flavors.”

A lot of people consider me a little bit of a coffee snob…but in actuality we are just fans of good stuff and love the great deals by roasting your own.  Life is too short to drink crappy coffee, and crappy beer for that matter.

We have been slumming it a bit lately as we ran out of our maple syrup last week too, we have been using just a dash of brown sugar in our Cappuccinos, If I can remember to bring the jug down with me later this week, I can stock back up next time I’m in the flats.

The weather these last few days has been total “yuck-o”…today we have had off and on rain / snow and a few minutes ago it was actually thundering. I have missed the thunder these last wintery 8 months  The snow in the yard is nearly gone…and if this rain keeps up tonight it will most likely be gone by morning.  People in other parts of the country or even down in the flats do not fully understand what it is like live in the Mountains.

This video below I shot on Saturday…yes…just a few days ago. The date was MAY 14

Thursday the 19th update…the snow IS NOT gone…in fact we got about 6″ last night…if you did not know differently it could be Jan.

Read Full Post »

One of the mornings at the cabin we tried some simple baking.  The nights were chilly and just after sundown I would stoke up the wood stove.  Unlike our winter stays I did not need to continue to stoke it all night long, the night time temps were in the upper 20’s so by morning a chill had settled back into the cabin.  With the morning stoke I could do some simple cooking, and heat the water for coffee, with out having to fire up the gas stove.  By the time I had finished up my second cup of Joe, French press with chemicals (Chemicals are our house name for “French Vanilla creamer”) the cabin was toasty.  With out a fire the cabin would still get warm due to the  the sun being up and warming the interior via our passive solar design.

Baking muffins

Our baking experiment consisted of chocolate chi muffins baked in the dutchy.  I used the digital infrared Temp gun to ball park the start conditions, we were a little cooler than the “package” recommendations, but the results were still plenty edible.

Cooking the Bacon

Tuesday morning I got started with finishing up the last of the electrical work, I got the 120 V receps installed, the last  12 Volt  LED installed and I swapped out the 1000 watt inverter with the 2500 watt inverter.  The last of the electrical allowed me to finish up the insulation and start the south walls ‘s   T & G.  With the new inverter installed I got to use the chop saw run via Solar Power…a first at Moontree Ranch.

I got to the top of the picture window and dining window before running out of wood.  With the chop saw in action I knocked out the interior trim on the west window.  This was done in cedar, and looks good with the blue stain.

Cedar Trim on West window

The highlight of the day for the girls was the target shooting.  Last fall when my mom and dad came out for a visit, my dad gave me a .22 rifle with a 4x scope.  Tasha had enjoyed the archery in hers school’s PE class and this Rifle work was the next step.  We started out with paper plates at about 100 yards, but the girls were having a little trouble keeping  on the target.  Later we switched to about 50-60 yards , and used some ready made pistol targets.  After I sighted in the scope for that range they were getting pretty good results.  It was a hoot the see them having so much fun. It will take some time to work up to larger calibers and with the pistols but I think they had a great start.

Sierra with the rifle

We also got in a bit of  hike on Wednesday, a loop over to the main road in…a bit along the old Chili Line (old time RR grade) over some rock outcroppings on Gil’s land to the west of us and then back into our land via the SW corner.

Sierra on the high point of the hike.

The trees seen to the right of Sierra in the mid-horizon are on our land as we head up from the SW corner.

Read Full Post »

Produce 101

Check out Challenge #1

I ran a few errands today in preparation for my truck heading into the shop tomorrow.  On the list was a visit to the supermarket to pick up  few days worth of vittles.  As I got to the check out I noticed a new guy keying up people’s purchases.  This kid seemed to be High school age or early 20’s, (it’s getting harder for me to tell…it been such a while since I was that age).  The laser scanner was working fine and everything was going fine until he got to the end of my small cart.  He managed the white onion OK…and looked up the code…The more experienced checkers know the routine codes by heart so I cut him some slack. But when He asked me what are those…I had a second take…”what” I said…” Uh that’s garlic”…

How can a kid survive that far into life and not recognize this most basic item?  Is this the end of society ..or just one of the countless masses who live off of Happy Meals and frozen pizza.  It’s not like I had an odd ball collection of exotic Asian produce…Bok Choy, Leeks, or even scallions or fennel…Tomatillo or artichokes or maybe even a pomegranate.

My garlic was destined for the homemade spaghetti sauce.  This round included Italian sausage with Merlot, Asiago cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, adding a bit if kick is some Chorizo Sausage, plus Onions, and Mushrooms and of course the fresh garlic.  This will be served over ziti….I’m getting hungry writing about it…time to go check the sauce.

Italian Sausage with Merlot, Asiago cheese and Sun-dried Tomato

Read Full Post »

Dutch oven Turkey

As many people make preparations for the pig out fest known as Thanksgiving, Tori and I got the jump on a yummy meal, and are now working on the left overs.  The girls will be here later this week and they are not huge fans of Turkey,  stuffing and other traditional fixin’s.  So to meet our cravings we cooked up a 10 pounder in the dutchy on Sunday.  I had cooked one this way a couple of years ago and it came out great…so this year we repeated our success with a touch of  Herbes de’ provence.

We started with a young turkey at about 10 1/2 pounds.  Anything much bigger than this will not easily fit into the dutchy.  This bird cost a whopping $5 at Safeway (with club card) list on it was about $13.50.  This combined with cornbread stuffing mix, and green bean casserole (also on sale at our local market) we had the majority of the meal covered for about $10, and here we are today still feeding off of this creation.

For slow roasting the bird I used the herbs as a dry rub, stuffed him in the dutchy, and set him in the oven. The first hour or so at 300 to get the dutchy up to temp, then another 4 hours at 250 ish. The dutchy seals in the moisture, and we get some nice carmelization and juice to make gravy.  The absolute beauty of slow roasting in the dutchy is,  after eating our primary meal, all we have to do is pick up the carcass and wiggle it and all the meat falls away.  The dreaded carcass meat recovery task is simplified…hello  leftovers.

Read Full Post »



Grandpa Soup (My version)


When I was growing up, my grandpa (on my moms side) would make large batches of soup.  This soup was a bit more of a stew, as it was very hearty and combined with a slice or two of bread, would be a complete meal.  Grandpa was never much into fancy spices, purely a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and salt and pepper was about all he used.  When he made large batches he (or Grandma) would can up a number of quarts and we would often get to take a bunch home.

Home canning was a way of life for my grandparents. They lived on a farm when my mom was born, and always had large gardens when they moved up to Michigan.  Each summer they would can dozens of different items and had a well stocked pantry.  Grandpa soup, as it was called in our family, was made from scratch using the veggies they produced in the garden.  All that grandpa would add was some beef.

My mom, being tight for time raising 3 boys,  would often open up a jar of his soup and call dinner “done”. Grandpas version was simple with Beef, tomatoes, peas, corn , carrots, onion and salt and pepper…that’s it.  My version takes it up a notch and I sure grandpa would be proud.

Kevin’s Version of Grandpa Soup

3 to 4 pounds Beef (Chuck steak with nice marbling works well, but I have also used sirloin and recently boneless ribs)

1 large yellow onion

1  28 oz can Muir Glen Fire roasted Whole tomatoes (grandpa would use 2 quarts home canned tomatoes)

1 28 oz Can Muir Glen Fire roasted Crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz can of peas

1 15 oz can of whole corn

1 bag baby carrots

2-3 tbs canola oil

2 tbs margoram

2 tbs Thyme

1 tbs Garlic powder

1/3 bottle liquid smoke

Salt + pepper.



Slice beef into bit sized stew pieces (3/8″ thick x 1/2 to 3/4″ long) Brown meat in canola oil in heavy pot (I use my large cast iron dutch oven) Once browned add diced onion and continue until caramelized, add spices, reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes, and baby carrots that have been cut up to bit sized pieces.

Simmer for about an hour then add corn and peas. (If  these are added to early the peas can get mushy) Add liquid smoke and continue simmer for another hour.  Throughout these two long simmers, periodic stirring is needed.

For eating,  a hearty french bread is great for dipping.  Sometimes I’ll add dollop of sour cream to the top before digging in.

This makes a big batch, and I’ll sometimes freeze up about half for another day.





Read Full Post »

Simmer Peaches in Butter

During our stay at Zion we fired up the “dutchy” for some classic cobbler, we use this pot a lot for all kinds of meals, but what we call cowboy cobbler is one of our favorites.  With larger groups we use the coal top 12 qt. 12″, for this batch it was just Tori and I so we used the smaller Lodge chicken cooker / skillet combo, this smaller set is one of our many cast iron pots and about the right size for two peoples travels.  Even at home most meals are cooked in cast iron, from small 4″ singles to 12″ family sized.

For this round of cobbler we started with a bunch of white peaches.  These are a bit firmer than the normal variety that most people see.  We got these fresh in Page on our way up to Zion.  When cooking out of season we often use frozen peaches or berry mixes for this recipe, we even did a tropical version once with some mango.

After slicing and pitting, we softened them up a little with a simmer in some butter, 1 stick worth,  this recipe is not for the dieting types. When we use frozen fruit this simmer step is skipped, and the butter gets added on top of the fruit.  Next we add a box of Jiffy cake mix, here we used yellow, but white works great too.

Add the Cake MIx

The next step is the baking, which is the hardest part. We usually make this dish as a desert after a dinner and often struggle with waning light and full bellies.  This round here at Zion we opted for Breakfast Cobbler, what better way to fuel a days hiking eh? The mornings still had a touch of chill to them so the fire was a welcome addition.  The trick to great campfire cooking is to keep the heat even, the simmer step preheated the pan and a few coals on top and a rotation or two will keep the hot spots away.

Cooking in the fire-ring

One nice thing about the chicken cooker/ skillet combo is that you can check the progress with out any “tools”.  Mitts or heavy gloves are required as the cast iron will be at oven temps so caution is required.  When we use the big “dutchy” I have to lift the lid with a pry bar to check cooking progress, that lift can be a little tricky if your coals are off balance.  This batch came out very nice with touch a crispy on one side.  Cooking time was about 15 minutes…but varies depending on preheat and the quantity of coals used…here practice will help.  Not to worry, some of our first batches were a little on the done side but were still consumed with vigor.

Done to Perfection

Tori likes lots of cake in her cobbler while I prefer a more balanced mix.  For larger batches we sometimes will use two boxes of cake mix, to keep it moist more butter is needed.  This batch had a nice balance of fruit and cake.

Balanced Cake and Fruit

Its not your typical bacon and eggs breakfast, or your healthier granola and yogurt…but it is made with real fruit…and for a big day of hiking the calories will soon be a memory.  The only trouble is deciding who gets the wash the pan.

Cobbler Gone!

Read Full Post »

Cedar Plank Salmon...Done to Perfection

A number of years ago we were introduce to Cedar Plank Salmon at a neighbors.  They had enjoyed this dish at a restaurant and then tried it at home.  Since then we have had it more times than I can count, and each time it has bestowed its smokey goodness to us.

The recipe is quite simple and I have shared it with friends on a number of occasions.  I have even seen “kits” available in some stores for those without imagination.  The “kits” consist of a wimpy 3/8″ plank of cedar and a small bag of spices, mostly salt.  I use cedar in many of my carpentry projects from time to time, and usually have a few scraps kicking around.  So instead of dropping $12 for a kit…that has $1 worth of wood and 10 cents in spices.  I nab a scrap board  from the shop.  It is common cedar (western red) 3/4″ thick, depending on the former project it can be from 4″ to 8″ wide.  If the boards are too narrow to support the fillet  I use two boards side by side.

The first step is to cut a piece of wood that will fit the fillet, I normally do this with the band saw.  The next step is to soak the board.  I fill the sink with about 3-4″ of hot water and place  our filled plastic water pitcher on top of the plank to submerge it.   Soak the plank for about 20-30 minutes, after the plank is soaked,  place the fillet on the wood and set it on the grill.  I like to have the plank extend about an inch beyond the fillet….bigger fillets needs bigger planks…..  The grill has been preheated for 5-10 minutes and is now at about 50%.  Sometimes I use a teriyaki marinade or spice rub but mostly just the plain fillet.   Once on the grill close it up and let the magic begin.  Its necessary to keep the lid closed, this allows the smoke to work its wonders and keeps it from flaring up.

The photo above was shot just before it was  removed from the grill.  With the lid up the extra oxygen causes the plank sides to burst into flames…smoke is good flames are not.  I have also used a spray bottle to limit flare ups too, keep an eye on it.  As some larger fillets will need a longer cook time, the plank can get pretty cooked.  The fillet above was an average size and fed both Tori and I.  Cooking time about 15 minutes.  The inside stays moist and the the smoke provides a nice caramel color.

For a side dish we had slices of tomatoes that were topped with Dublin Cheddar and broiled, we often dress those with a dash of Balsamic Vinegar and pinch of sea salt.  Avocados add a third dimension to the flavors.

Ready to Eat

Sometimes we will have Cedar Plank Salmon on a Caesar Salad, as we do with our grilled chicken.  I hope to try this with some chicken some day…but will need to keep a close eye on cooking time.  Under cooked salmon is Sushi…under cooked chicken is Salmonella.   Some people have also used this method with other woods (apple, hickory, Mesquite) but with cedar scrap handy this has been our primary route.

Read Full Post »

I packed up the Christmas tree last week…and saved the blue lights for another project..I’ll post soon on that.  We fell in love with the Giant Blue Tree a few years ago.  It is a huge 60 foot tall monster that was completely covered with just blue lights, it is part of the annual light show at the Denver Botanic Gardens…last year they did not have it due to some construction projects and this year we did not get a chance to head down.  Tori had a bout with pneumonia for Christmas and gave me a good cold to boot.  We did not miss it so much since we had our own mini version right in the house.  I found a deal of some blue LED Christmas lights so we got to have a “blue Christmas”

Our own Blue Tree

Also last week I got to play with a new cookbook I got just after Christmas…its all Thai, and I worked up a few dishes since then.  The other day I made a green curry with coconut milk, fresh peppers and shrimp….it was great over the rice noodles but still my favorite has to be the panang curry beef I made when I first got the book….I used some boneless beef ribs and they were so tender they melted in your mouth.

Green Curry Shrimp with Peppers

I just got back up from the shop, continuing to oil the 6″ T&G for the cabin.  I have about 210 lf sanded and oiled with 5 coats….still have the other 210 feet to sand yet.  I could not get it all sanded as I had 300 lf of trim I’ve been working on for client still in the shop, I delivered it Friday,  and I start to install that next week.  Once this final coat on the T&G is dry I can rack it aside until it is time to take to the cabin…Its going to look Sweet!…There is a nice mix of blue stain, clear, and reddish.  It was  a great deal at 41 cents a foot…and I’m looking forward to getting another 400 feet or so for starting on the walls at the cabin.

Read Full Post »