Classic Toffee

I don’t know about you, but the holidays just aren’t the holidays unless until I’m messing around with pounds of butter and sugar. Cooking a batch of this rich toffee makes me feel like one of Santa’s jolly elves.

Classic Toffee

1 C butter

1 C sugar

¼ C water

1 C chocolate chips

½ C chopped pecans

Sea Salt

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine butter, sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat and stir stir stir until it reaches hard-crack stage (300°). This will take about 15 minutes.

Pour toffee onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Let set for a minute. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the warm toffee. Allow the chips to soften, then use an offset spatula (or the back of a large spoon) to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle nuts over the chocolate. Add a dusting of sea salt.

Allow the toffee to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in a hard-to-open container on a high shelf so you can’t mindlessly eat it all in a single sitting. Or, package and give away immediately. Don’t even bother trying some toffee with your morning coffee; I already tested that and it’s a terrible combination.

toffee recipe

Toffee Recipe

toffee recipe

Toffee recipe

Oven Puffed Pancake

If I’ve ever made you breakfast, chances are you’ve eaten Oven Puffed Pancake. It’s been my signature morning dish for, oh, the past two decades or so. It’s from James McNair’s Breakfast, first published in 1987. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe my dad and I bought this, along with a blue teapot, for my mom’s birthday. Family? Is that correct?

I loved this book.

James McNair Breakfasts

All the recipes seemed sophisticated and refined, inspired by far-away places like France or New Orleans. Continue reading

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

If you have a can of pumpkin puree leftover from Thanksgiving baking, I urge you to give this soup a try. Hearty, comforting and a tad spicy, it’s not overly pumpkin-y. This recipe is adapted from The Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food bloggers and author of a new cookbook coming out in 2012. My version is more rustic, thick with chunks of tomatoes and beans, and fresh chiles and chipotle powder to lend a southwest twist. Continue reading

Snow Day Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower

Winter descended on New Mexico last week. We encountered snow as we drove into the hills north of Santa Fe; six inches of powder covered the ground at Hyde Memorial State Park where we camped for a few days.

Hyde Memorial State Park

A snowy hike left us hungry for something comforting and warm, and Cheesy Cauliflower fit the bill. I’d like to say we ate this with a big, healthy green salad, but the truth is we devoured the gooey goodness on it’s own – we were in a rush to meet some fellow RVers for wine and a game of dominos! The thermometer read 11 degrees when we got “home” that night. Continue reading

Totally Flexible Farro Salad

Nutty, toothsome farro is one of my all-time favorite grains, and I love farro salads because they’re so versatile. I’ve been making a lot of these in the Minnie because they come together quickly and allow me to use whatever veggies I have on hand.

Following are some basic proportions to create a dish packed with flavor and texture. Tailor these ingredient suggestions to your personal taste. To create a heartier one-dish meal, I add a shredded chicken or a link of quality sausage.

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Food & Farmers: Fish Stories

I consider myself a fairly savvy grocery shopper.  Whether I’m grabbing produce or canned goods, dairy or snacks, I can look for the USDA organic seal, or scrutinize ingredient statements to make educated decisions. There are brands I trust and labeling regulations I understand. But, when it comes to seafood, I’m at a loss. Often, fish is displayed with little information beyond variety and price. Even when I know where a particular scallop or fillet came from or how it was harvested, I’m not sure how to interpret those details – farmed is bad? Line caught is good. Bottom trawling is out. Imported? Local?

“It’s not black or white,” agrees Laura Anderson, owner of Local Ocean Seafoods, a Newport, Oregon-based fish market and restaurant. I had the chance to get some advice from Anderson on how to make the best choices. Anderson is a third-generation fisherman with an impressive list of credentials – a Master’s in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University, extensive work as an independent Marine Resource Management Consultant to organizations such as Oregon SeaGrant, Environmental Defense and the Oregon Salmon Commission, and Peace Corps volunteer working on costal management in the Philippines. She founded Local Ocean Seafoods in 2002 with the mission to “give people the best seafood experience of their lives.”

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How to Make a Frozen Pizza

  1. Arrive in camp around 6pm. Agree to make a frozen pizza because it is hot and you are feeling lazy and vaguely cranky and just want to read.
  2. Guiltily think about all the fresh vegetables you’ve acquired over the past few days, and consider how long they’ll last.
  3. Decide to add a big salad to the dinner menu.
  4. Heat a pot of water to boil tiny red potatoes unearthed from your parent’s garden.
  5. When searching for herbs in the fridge, grumble a little when the mozzarella falls off the shelf. Set it on the counter and forget about it. Continue reading

Kootenai River Brewing Company Preview

This post is part of Patrick’s “Beer & Gear” series.

Canada may be known for the Mackenzies and their beer drinking prowess but we didn’t fare so well up north in that department.  Six packs of Molsen and Labatt were running about $12, yikes! After a week in Canada without a proper pint I had a bit of the ol’ thirst.  Enter the little town of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho.  Just after crossing the border we pulled into town and parked alongside the Kootenai River to make some lunch.  Afterwards, we hopped out of the Minnie to take a stroll around town.  Low and behold the first site we saw was a sign reading BEER in big bold letters.

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Blackberry Orange Cornmeal Muffins

A tangle of blackberry vines surrounding our campsite in Sunset Bay, Oregon, inspired these breakfast treats. Tangy orange zest and juicy blackberries are paired with hearty cornmeal in a moist, crumbly muffin.

Blackberry Orange Cornmeal Muffins

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs orange juice
  • 1 cup blackberries, tossed in 1 Tbs flour

Preheat oven to 375° and line twelve muffin cups with liners.

Sift together flour and baking powder and whisk in cornmeal, sugar, salt and orange zest. Whisk together melted butter, milk, orange juice and eggs. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in blackberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until tops are golden and a tester comes out clean.

Watermelon Salad

Food is always my top priority when travelling (actually, it’s always a top priority). What are we going to eat? Is anyone hungry? Do we have enough food? When are we stopping for lunch/snacks/dinner/ice cream? Was that a bakery? Especially while on vacation, meals mark the passing of time, and fill the hours usually devoted to office work or emails.

Our meals so far have been simple but satisfying, as our rigorous schedule of sightseeing and hiking leaves little time for food preparation. It’s a rough life. We’ve focused on dishes that can be made quickly, trying to match our foods to the weather outside – which is to say, hearty pastas when it’s chilly, and big salads when it’s roasting, like this weekend when temperatures soared into the 90s.

More a list of suggested ingredients than a real “recipe,” this easy Watermelon Salad is a refreshing accompaniment to BBQ & corn on the cob.

Watermelon Salad

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 cup cubed jicama
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • juice & zest of two limes
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped mint
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill up to one hour before serving.