Campfire Nachos

Hawaiian Inspired Campfire Nachos

Hawaiian Inspired Campfire Nachos

I adore nachos. I love trying to get the exact ratio of cheese, to topping, to chip perfect so that every bite is a constant delight! On our recent trip to Yosemite each family was responsible for either an appetizer, a side, or the main course each night. Which made it so fun and collaborative, especially with my foody friends who had put a lot of time and effort into their nightly contribution. We dined on Spicy Chicken Sausage spaghetti (with plenty of Chianti!), delicious vegetarian spaghetti, and Hawaiian Chicken and Aloha rice (along side passion fruit infused mai tais).

Since I was assigned the night with the Hawaiian Chicken, I wanted to keep with the theme. I settled on Hawaiian inspired nachos. After heavily layering two layers of chips with cheese atop refried beans, I set the pan over the campfire to melt the cheese and warm up the beans, covering the pan with tin foil. After the beans were warmed through and the cheese was bubbling and melted, I added jalapeños, peppercinis, diced pineapple, sour cream, and olives. I finished the whole thing off by drizzling sweet chili sauce and a concoction of mirin infused bar-b-que sauce. These two condiments definitely added the Hawaiian flavor I was looking for. They were so yummy!!!

Nachos were the perfect portable appetizer for camping. Most items were in sealed packages and cans so they kept well. I used pre-shredded cheese, an item I usually shy away from, and sour cream that kept well in the cooler. The campfire was the ideal cooking method and I used a heavy duty proof pan that would withstand the heat and not buckle under the weight of all the toppings. As I mentioned, I tented the pan with aluminum foil, careful not to touch the cheese.

On a side note, I made plain cheese nachos for the 14 children that were running amok as I was sure they wouldn’t care for the ‘adult nachos.’ How wrong I was. We were beating them off with sticks in order to get to them. So funny! Little foodies in training…

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4th of July. No Children. Boo.

 

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1/20 of my 4th of July Decor

I don’t just love 4th of July. I’m crazy for it. I found out I’m less crazy about Independence Day (or any other holiday, for that matter) without the Houligans. After the divorce, we all worked hard to create different, meaningful traditions and new memories. This 4th was an indication that we are moving into a new phase that has little to do with the repercussions of a divorce, and more to do with adult children and their plans. Three out of the four skipped So Cal for various other parts of the world: Bolivian Salt Flats (???), Belfast, Ireland, and Nor Cal. The one who did stick around was M.I.A for most of the day. So it was just me, a few friends, and the Dirty Dawg.

On a typical 4th of July we join the neighborhood morning parade, we tie-dye shirts in red, white and blue, we put on a huge lunch at the beach for all our friends, we attend an annual bar-b-que. At the end of the evening we watch the fireworks from T-Street as they cascade down the coast from Corona del Mar to Dana Point to San Juan Capistrano with a grand finale off the San Clemente pier.

This year it was me. Me, Myself, and I. I expected to feel overwhelming melancholy, and guess what? I was actually happy with a slower pace, responsible for only getting myself to the beach and to the bar-b-que. It was somewhat refreshing not attempting to ‘herd cats’ down to watch the pyrotechnics. Do I want this every year? Absolutely not. But I understand I’m in the middle of a process. With only one Houligan left at home, this active parenting thing will be coming to a sort of end.  Soon. Despite wanting to relish every second with them, I’m also discovering I’m going to be fine if every holiday isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting.

So I happily entertained myself with Wimbledon, the World Cup, dressing up/harassing the Dirty Dawg, baking, and visiting with friends.

I can do this thing!

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Hers Loves the Bow

This is what happens to the Dirty Dawg when the kids aren’t around. Poor girl.

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But I did let her sit on the couch to watch the Women’s Wimbledon Final, so I’m not a total shrew. However, no croissants were allowed!

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I felt the need to jump on the Ina Garten Flag Cake Fray. It truly was so pretty and

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Banana Muffins, Post-Carb Break-Up

 

IMG_3266I am full-swing into a carb break-up. I’d seen the signs that the break-up was coming: Bloating, Weight-Gain, Lack of Energy, etc. Now, I’m no Dietician, and I truly don’t know if all these factors were carb related; however, I just felt like I needed to alter my love affair of all things carbohydrate.

My big joke lately has been, “once they develop an ‘All Carb, No Exercise’ diet, I will be thin as a reed. As I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon, I severely cut back on bread, sweets and treats. It’s taken a few months but I’ve managed to ‘re-set’ my carb button. I feel heavy and sluggish if I go overboard with bread, which used to be my drug carb of choice.

But I digress…I was asked to bring muffins for the World Cup Final to a friend’s home. Despite my urge to make Kuchen, in honor of my German heritage and my pick to win the WC, I wasn’t up to make a yeasted bread.

Luckily, I had bananas on hand. I was in business. I googled Ina Garten’s Banana Muffin recipe, substituting half the sugar for brown sugar, increasing the bananas from 3 to 4, and adding a streusel topping (at least a little something German).

I’ve finally achieved the perfect banana muffin and it was worth every carbalicious bite! They were divine.

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Yosemite, Housekeeping Camp 2014

 

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Have you ever heard about a person, or a thing, or place, that you’re sure you’re going to dislike so strongly that you avoid it to the detriment to yourself? That place for me has been Yosemite. For some reason, the thought of Yosemite, or actually getting to Yosemite has always given me the creeps. I have avoided it like the plague. Instead of imagining charming camp sites, I conjured up meth labs. Instead of thoughts of biking through the bucolic meadows, I envisioned Biker Gangs rounding every corner. It was classic flashback to Bad Nor Cal 1970s, and I couldn’t get past it. The more enthusiasm people had for Yosemite, the more I decided it wasn’t for me.

I mean, we weren’t big campers to begin with after my mother’s Edict of 1974, which stated “no more ‘dirt camping.'” Apparently, the multiple trips to Buckskin, Az. with small children (one of whom found every cigarette butt at camp, promptly ingesting it.) And so, we didn’t. My former husband had no interest in camping, apparently he’d heard of my mother’s Edict. Upon my divorce, and effort to re-invent myself I jumped at the opportunity to camp. And guess what? We loved it and made several trips to Camp Richardson in Tahoe.

However, I was still leary about camping in Yosemite. Could the tall tales of its beauty really measure up? Would it be worth the drive? What if I was expected to HIKE? After repeatedly turning down an offer to accompany 4 other families on an annual trip to Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite, I accepted.

Loaded down like the Beverly Hillbillies

Loaded down like the Beverly Hillbillies

 

I took my youngest Houligan, my niece, and my nephew, ages 13, 12, and 11.  After a long drive that included car-sickness, and car trouble, set to Deliverance banjo music, we arrived around mid-night, quickly unpacked, and settled into our 3 sided ‘tent.’ It had a double bed, a set of bunks, some shelving AND (gasp!) electricity. All set on a concrete floor. Total luxury camping compared to what we’d been doing!

The first morning I woke early and stepped out of the tent. In the pre-dawn fogginess, I glanced up and saw Half Dome thinly veiled in mist. It was so shockingly beautiful it took my breath away. All I could think of was John Muir hiking through this valley and Ansel Adams’ images re-created before me in real life. As Muir stated, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” This was the Yosemite before me.

Over the next few days, we went on adventure after adventure. We hiked Mist Trail (much more treacherous than I’d anticipated), rode bikes to Bridal Veil Falls, rafted the Merced river, had cocktail hour at the venerable Ahwahnee Lodge, and ate beautiful al fresco meals that my gourmand traveling companions provided. The kids biked and hiked and kept up with the adults, not to mention rounds and rounds of competitive team chess. Did you know there was such a thing?

As we watched the Americans play Germany at the World Cup, we ate our  breakfast, camp-style, in the Curry Village lodge. We drifted down the river at dusk, cocktails in hand, only to be ambushed by water guns and the errant children we’d left behind.

In short, we communed with nature and it was heaven.

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Aussie Brekkie Sandwich

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Bear with with me. I keep having Post Traumatic Food Flashbacks to our trip to Oz at the holidays. I’ve been trying to recall the wonderful simple good we had there and re-make it at home

One of these recipes was a breakfast sandwich we had a darling little beach side cafe at Freshie (or, Freshwater). My daughter had had this delicious morning treat a few years ago when she lived there for a short time and wanted another. I could see why!

This breakfast roll, as it was called, was comprised of a soft roll (I substituted one of my homemade hamburger rolls), smeared with marinara sauce, topped with some proscuitto (I subbed bacon), a slice of mozzarella and finished it with an egg over medium (as you can see, mine was over easy. Boo.)

It was quite delish stateside, and so evocative of the best simple food Australia had to offer.

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Soup is OOOOONNNN

 

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I don’t know why this never occurred to me, but as I  was cruising through the internet looking for a soup to make over the weekend, I stumbled across this delicioso soup. A riff off my boring chicken tortilla soup, amped up with shrimp, which I would eat with every meal if possible. J’adore shrimp.

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This, is Mexican mire poix:  Onion, garlic, green onion, jalapeño. Totally fab.

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After the addition of paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper and the diced potatoes in juice. Next came the shrimp.

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After you add the shrimp, don’t over cook it. The shrimp were literally cooked through in 4 minutes. After that, they get tough and rubbery. Not my fave.

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This part is the best: All the accoutrement! Fried tortilla strips, cojita cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeños, lime wedges, and pico de gallo make this light soup a little heartier and allows for soup customization! So fun and yummy.

I unintentionally made this soup 2 days in advance. The flavors definitely mellowed a tad, but still had the spicy kick I crave. I served it alongside corn bread muffins and a lightly dressed salad of mixed greens. How do you say Bon Appetit en Espanol???

 

 

 

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Pulled Pork Sandwich with Lurid Yellow Sauce

photo 4One of my favorite all time sandwiches, seems to be most everyone else’s, too: The Pulled ‘Insert Your Favorite Meat Here’ Sandwich. I realize it’s probably been done to death, and therefore photographed to death. But I Don’t Care. I love it. I love it in all its iterations. Chicken, Beef, Pork. Whatever, and whenever, I will eat it.

For several years in a row, I’ve made the pulled chicken version, slapped in the slow-cooker and served for my annual 4th of July lunch due to some of my guests aversion to pork. But I never forget about the porcine version.

This weekend I was looking for something to make ahead for lunch so I didn’t have to spend a minute away from my March Madness obsession. Aha, these sandwiches popped in my head. I woke up a tad early and smothered a pork butt with brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and set it atop sliced yellow onions and a few smashed cloves of garlic. I set that slow cooker on high and cooked the heck out of it for 7 hours.

Meanwhile, I remembered a yellow mustard sauce (that I believe finds its roots in North Carolina), I’d been served with a PPS in the past. We’d referred to it as Lurid Yellow Sauce as it is a very strong yellow color, with the most divine flavor. A nice deviation from the standard bar-b-que sauce. This sauce contains 1/2 C. yellow mustard (something like French’s), 1/2 c. brown Sugar, 1 T. ground mustard, 1/4 t. cayenne pepper, 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar, 4 T. butter, 3 T. grated onion. Add the grated onion to the melted butter and then add rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30m. on low. Serve atop the meat sandwich.

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Now, I must make a confession: Sometimes I pull a Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee move and use pre-made version of items that A. I don’t make well, B. The difference between homemade and store bought is negligible and/or C. I like the store bought version better than my own. Store bought coleslaw from my local Ralph’s covers all these bases. So when you view this next pic, don’t be surprised!…Sue me.

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This sandwich, served with some good old-fashioned Lay’s potato chips, and an ice cold beer were the perfect companions during the Elite Eight playoffs on my lazy Sunday afternoon.

Are you a fan of the lurid yellow sauce? Or a red bbq sauce purist? It’s like choosing between my children. It depends on what day…

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