Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Perfect Evening

Posted by: Rick

Yesterday was windy. We had sustained winds of around 20 mph with gusts up to 26 mph. That is not nearly as bad as it will get this winter, but was enough to put a damper on outdoor activities.

Sunday's Super Moon. Slightly out of context, but a nice photo.

We did take the dogs for a walk along the road in the morning before it got too bad. (We can't walk in the woods when it is windy because of the risk of a dead tree blowing down.) And, I stained some wood trim for an upcoming project on the porch.

But, mostly we read, Lynne worked on a puzzle some, I played some games on the iPad. A nice lazy day.

At around 5:00 the wind suddenly stopped. It became dead still. I took the dogs out for a pee and Destin immediately ran down to the camp fire ring. He was trying to tell me something--maybe it was a good evening to have a camp fire! 

Destin, alert at the sound of coyotes calling.

We had thawed a flank steak for dinner, so it was also a good chance to finally use my camp fire cooking setup. I could hang the grill over the fire for the steak, and we'd also hang a Dutch oven to cook blistered green beans.

Me, with the camp fire cooking setup. The box of wine is essential.

So, I started a nice fire. We dispose of old grease in the fire pit, and so it is pretty easy to get a roaring fire going. I had a big, hot fire in no time, then fed it small logs to build up a bed of coals.

It was chilly outside. I could see my breath. So, the heat of the fire and its crackling sound was comforting.

View of the cabin from the camp fire.

I set up the cooking kit. I filled a 2 gallon bucket with water and put it by the fire (just in case). And, I got a glass of wine. 

The flank steak was actually 1/2 of a flank steak. There is no way Lynne and I can eat a whole steak. I made a quick marinade of some olive oil, soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, some granulated onion, garlic and ginger. Salt and pepper. All that went into a zip bag for about an hour and marinated while the fire burned down to a nice bed of coals.

What can I say?

The bean recipe is a great one, especially for an outdoor fire. I simply stirred green beans with a little oil, salt and pepper, in the hot Dutch oven then let them sizzle. Turning them once in a while, they soon develop brown blisters. I occasionally tossed them in the pot until they were blistered on all sides.

While fire crackled, the beans sizzled, and drops of fat from the meat hissed on the fire, we also heard coyotes calling in the distance. A couple of great horned owls called and responded. Otherwise, the stillness and silence was almost deafening.

Here is a 15 second video of the fire. Turn up your speakers and listen to the crackling of the fire:

;

As we ate our steak and beans the sun set and the hunter's super moon rose. It was HUGE and so bright it hurt our eyes to look directly at it. Stars began to appear and fill the sky. Coyotes sang. Owls hooted. Dogs lay by the fire. It was a perfect evening.

Happy dogs!

We topped it all off with some roasted marshmallows, some whisky, and burned some sage for good fortune. 

We had planned to go to town for dinner tonight to celebrate our anniversary, but decided last night's wonderful meal and experience is celebration enough.

Hailey wanted her photo included.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What’s for Dinner? Puffball Parmesan!

Posted by: Lynne

Yes, you heard right. The other night for dinner we picked a couple of the puffball mushrooms that grow at this time of year at the top of our driveway. And yes, these are the same mushroom that if you let them go they become those powdery things that are so much fun to step on and watch the brown spores explode all over the place. BUT, if you catch them when they are still young and firm they are completey and wonderfully edible. No joke! 

One of our mushroom books had a recipe for Puffball Parmesan which sounded really good to us, so we went for it. We've never eaten puffballs before so it was kind of an experiment. And hey, we didn't even have a frozen pizza standing by just in case it was inedible.

The recipe called for making a tomato sauce with green peppers, onions, garlic, whole canned tomatoes and tomato paste. 

We cut up the puffballs into "eggplant" like thick slices, then they got dipped in egg and coated with grated parmesan and bread crumbs (and savory, salt & pepper). Into the frying pan they went until golden brown. Then in they went to the casserole dish in a single layer, sliced mozzarella, and the tomato sauce was poured over them. More parm on the top.

And here is how it looked coming out of the oven.

And on the plate before it went into my mouth and got eaten completely up.

I have to say it was so DELICIOUS! Very meaty and eggplant like but with a delicate flavor like I imagine tofu to taste (although I've never had it). You would never have known you were eating a mushroom. The sauce was wonderful and I think we'll use it on other italian meals. Although our mushroom book said that sometimes they can cause indigestion we had no issues whatsoever. I have more issues after eating fast food! It's too bad they only appear at this time of year and not on a regular basis. They grow really fast so you have to catch them before they get too big. We'll be having them again next year for sure. Care to join us for dinner?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Bounty from the Land

Posted by: Rick

The other day I caught a couple of 12" Brook trout and a nice Rainbow from my secret fishing spot.

We cooked up one Brookie to split for lunch using our Grilled Trout Venice Style recipe. It was just right for a light lunch.

The next night we combined the other fresh trout with wild oyster mushrooms we picked from our land as well as fresh sage grown in our herb garden to prepare this wonderful pan-fried trout recipe. That along with some white grits made for a great dinner, some of which came "off the land".

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Foraging for Oyster Mushrooms

Posted by: Rick

I am a fan of foraging for mushrooms around our cabin site. There are literally hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms that grow here. We've found 3 that we can forage as edible (and hope to find more over time). One of those is the oyster mushroom. It grows on dead aspen trees in cool wet areas like the picture below.

The other day when Lynne and I were hiking below the cabin at a place we call Picnic Rock, we noticed a few oyster mushrooms on a large dead and fallen aspen tree.

I had no way to collect them at the time, and there weren't many, so we left them. But, I decided to go back down this morning with my power drill and do some "plugs" to propagate the mushrooms. Turns out if you drill a hole in a dead host tree (aspen in this case) and then fill the hole with some existing fresh mushrooms, a new cluster of mushrooms is likely to grow at that site.

Here I am drilling hole in the downed, dead aspen.

And, plugging it with some mushroom picked elsewhere on the tree.

The squirrels had been busy eating green pine cones on the same tree.

And, I picked and ate a few wild strawberries before turning to head home.

After I turned back toward the cabin, I spotted more mushrooms growing on a different tree that I had not seen earlier. As I walked to that tree, I saw another stump literally covered with mushrooms!

I guess I did not need to try manually propagating them. There are more here than we can ever use! And, they were fresh and ready to cut. Oyster mushrooms are attractive to bugs as well as mycophagists, and even if they are a few days old they can get infested. Most of these were in perfect shape. So, I came back up to the cabin, got Lynne, a knife and a bag and headed back down. She took these two photos of me cutting a few of the nicer ones.

Here are just a few of what I cut. I've put the word out to neighbors that I have these and more to see if anyone want some. If not, I'll blanch about half of them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, let them dry out real well, then freeze them in a ziploc bag.

The ones we don't freeze will go into some kind of dish within the next day or two. (I store them wrapped in damp paper towels in a paper bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator. They'll keep for a week that way.) Maybe sliced and breaded and fried? Maybe in an Asian-flavored stir fry with some steak and veggies? Maybe in an omelette or frittata? Suggestions?

(Please, don't ever eat a wild mushroom that you are not 100% certain of. Wild mushrooms can be deadly. Never eat any wild mushroom raw. In other words, don't try this at home unless you know what you are doing!)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Waffles

Posted by: Rick

We love an occasional breakfast of waffles. We have an antique cast-iron waffle maker from the Wagner Manufacturing Company that we use at the cabin. It is marked with the company name and location--Sydney, O(hio)-- as well as "PAT'D FEB 22, 1910".

It took a while to get it properly conditioned so that waffles don't stick. But, we can now successfully make waffles. Of course we have to adapt the waffle mix recipe to high altitude by adding a bit of extra flour. I also increase the oil slightly. One secret to good waffles from this waffle iron is that we never wash it. Just wipe it clean after each use.

It goes over the stove burner. I let it get good and hot and then flip it to get both sides hot. Then, the batter goes in and I close the top. When I "sense" it is done on one side (I really should time this...), I flip it over to cook the second side (see video below).

After another few minutes, we have breakfast!

Here is a video of the process:

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