RV’ing, but thinking about food…

We’re on an RV jaunt to Moss Landing (just south of Santa Cruz) for 3 days, then on to Pescadero (just south of Half Moon Bay).  It’s been a great time to reflect on proposed cooking adventures.  So, here is something I conjured up (prose, not food) about food while enjoying the solitude of our home on wheels.

Cooking Light…or something like it.

As a long time self-professed foodie, self-taught chef (arguably), and all around chow hound, I must admit something I never thought I would hear myself saying: I’m going to concentrate my culinary efforts toward Cooking Light! OMG! I can’t believe I’ve said it.

Here’s a little back story to this most revealing admission.

I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to try new recipes. I love to collect recipes. For years I have been an advocate of very un-dietetic fine dining foods. Say the words Fettuccine Alfredo to me and I get all excited will have the heavy cream and butter reducing in a sauce pan within 5 minutes! Suggest a Number 1 at In N Out…I’m gone. Three-cheese bacon Mac ’n Cheese…show me to the Velveeta. Fried chicken…well, you get the picture. So my rationalization has always been this: I chose to NOT cut the flavorful fat and opt for smaller portions. Sounds simple right? And, it has worked for me (portion cutting) for a long time. However, as unfortunate as it sounds, reducing portions doesn’t seem to be the road I can, nor should, be on now. It just does not work any longer as part of my weight-maintaining, healthy diet life. I must ratchet my efforts up a notch or two.

I used to scoff at check stand magazines like Cooking Light. Sure, the recipe photos looked tempting, but the final product(s) were less than desirable. Bland, unsavory, boring, and so on. I just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get a handle on this, until recently.

Recently, I have found a source for so-called lighter cooking of common comfort style foods, recipes that don’t compromise on flavor…my flavor preferences. I’m not going to reveal this source right now, but, it’s just another online food magazine that has caught my eye.

There are still some food concessions I refuse to make, one of which is using ground turkey instead of ground beef (sorry daughter, Jen). I will use ground chicken (more flavorful) in some recipes, but not to replace quality, lean ground beef. I will never (again) use No Fat anything. Talk about zero flavor! No fat cheese tastes like eating a candle (not something I’ve ever done, but just imagine that). No fat mayo is bizarre and unpalatable, same with no fat sour cream and cream cheese.

So with this being known, how do we reduce the fat and calories without compromising taste in our meals? Simple. You use low-fat common sense, cut some of the carbs, and add vegetables. I know what you’re saying, “Of course, dumb ass, no shit!” But come on, it’s the KISS method of eating right…keep it simple stupid.

Do we have to severely limit our intake of fatty snacks (God bless Lays and Doritos)? Do we have to cut back on Buffalo Wings with blue cheese dressing? How about foie gras or duck fat (not my cup of tea, but just saying)? So, yeah, short of total elimination of certain items, some wholesale portion cutting can’t be avoided.

I’m a couple months shy of 65 years of age. Tried and true methods of weight loss that worked 30 years ago ain’t gonna fly at this age. Example…I did Weight Watchers in my late 30’s (back when WW food wasn’t nearly as palatable as today). In two months, I lost 38 pounds. I went from 225 (my weight now) to 187 in 60 days. And, I did not exercise one iota. Plus, I cheated! I drank a couple of glasses of wine every night and ate popcorn ‘till it was coming out of my ears. Go figure (?) No. A change in metabolism. Let’s face it, most of us realized we can’t do the same things at 65 as we did at 35 including eat whatever and whenever we want. Not too long ago we used to entertain quite a bit, i.e., dinner parties…late dinner parties with lots or appetizers, adult beverages, and desserts. We just don’t do that any longer for a variety of reasons. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I had a meal after 7 pm. It was common to serve dinner at 8 or 9 at our parties. One of my best friends was a French chef named Jean Marie. We would have dinner at his house and not sit down to eat until 10 pm! On a side note, we smoked cigarettes while we ate (very European).

Back to my geriatric self. I am surrendering to the reality of my culinary, age-related frailty. I simply can’t eat as much as I used to. I remember my father once told me in the late 60’s (he was 50, I was 19), “You know son, I can’t do justice to a Sunday buffet any more. I just can’t eat that much food”. He was referring to the cost versus his appetite. At that time, a buffet at a restaurant was about $15.00 in 1969 dollars, probably $30 or so today. Being the pragmatic (and cheap) guy he was, he couldn’t eat $15.00 worth of buffet food. It kind of made sense to me at the time, perfect sense today.

Some of these new recipes I am planning on trying will show up here from time to time. They are all things I love to eat, certainly NOT twigs, sticks, and bean sprouts. These have about 2/3 of the calories and 1/2 the fat of the more traditional versions. And, like I said, I will share them with you here after trying them myself…photos and nutrition data. One of the first recipes is for Loaded Potato Bacon Cheese Soup. Really!

The biggest challenge?  Doing these adjustments on our RV trips which, by the way, will occupy about half of our time.

Brining, Braising, BBQ’ing, Berkshire

I’m headed to Seattle for Thanksgiving having made my Virgin America (I love this airline!) reservation a number of weeks ago.  I leave from San Francisco on the Tuesday before and return the Saturday after, hopefully avoiding the major holiday travel crunch (I’m knocking on wood right now).  Of course, traveling to Seattle is for the sole purpose of seeing one of my kids, my son-in-law, and two grandkids.  Check that, maybe not “sole purpose” considering I love Seattle and seeing it again is like visiting an old friend I haven’t seen for a while.  Love the scenery, love the vibe, and love food.  Speaking of the latter, my Seattle visits also include home-cooked gastronomical forays.  Yeah, Roth, Jen, and me get to cook stuff…together!

I recently took delivery of a quantity of Berkshire pork belly.  It pretty much can’t be found anywhere around this culinary wasteland called Modesto, so I find deals on line. It’s shipped frozen via FedEx from the Midwest.  I promised my son-in-law, Roth (an excellent cook) that I would either bring some pork belly with me (not sure if that would be an issue with the TSA) or ship it to him before hand. Still pondering that deal.  At any rate, it would behoove me to get his portion to Seattle soon to allow some brining time (a week or so) if that is what he chooses.  If bacon is the intended final product, then curing will need to be done…a little longer process.

With all fairness, by request, here is quick explanation of a couple of terms.  Brining: very similar to marinating but using a mostly salt solution in water, from an hour to a few days.  Braising: long, slow cooking in some sort of liquid.  Curing: used for centuries for food preservation, today typically a long, dry process to infused flavor into meat, i.e., smoking pork belly for bacon.

The other term in the title of this post, Berkshire, refers to a breed of hog prized for flavor and tenderness. Evidently, similar to the quandary of identifying so-called Prime beef, the term Berkshire is often tossed about without checking the hog’s pedigree.

Considering my time in Seattle will include Thanksgiving, the food focus will be on turkey, not pork belly.  What Jen and Roth are planning remains to be scene.  He has been known to undertake the daunting task of turducken.  For me, I would be very satisfied with roast turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, and dressing.

Many years ago, I strayed a little from the usual thanksgiving fair.  My mother suggested, “Why don’t you just do the traditional thanksgiving food?”  My sarcastic response, “Well, how about we cook a wild goose, invite over some native Americans, and dress up like pilgrims?”  That statement was met with some sort of “talk to the hand” action from Mom.

 

 

 

Retirement: not the end of the road, just a turn in it.

Yeah, so I’m now retired. By definition, retired means having left one’s job and ceased to work.  That pretty much sums it up generally speaking.  Personally, even though I won’t turn 65 until January, I chose to cease working a couple of years ago, mainly for health reasons. But I also like to reference an old saying, apropos of my extended stint in restaurant management and the customer service sector: stick a fork in me…I’m done! So much for a cursory explanation for my bailout from the work force, this blog post is more about what I plan to do now rather than blather and dis about my disdain for certain career choices…saved for another posting.

I would like to say that I have all the time in the world to do whatever I please, but that’s not really the case.  Without dwelling too much on my health, let me say this…my time here is somewhat limited and so are my physical capabilities.  I realize all of our time is limited, mine is a bit more defined. With this being known, I do indeed have definite plans.

Initially anticipating my new-found liberation brought with it a few lofty and ambitious travel ideas, some of which have since fallen by the wayside when I came to my senses, i.e., a cold slap in the face by reality.  For instance, I’ve possessed a strong desire to visit the Orient again.  Having spent some time in Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam many years ago, I thought it would be an interesting travel destination now that I have the time and wherewithal to do it. Enter my depleted physical state and a foray to so-called Third World locales may not be the most judicious of decisions. Reasons to rethink this include the specter of spending long hours crammed in an airplane, hot, humid weather, my inability to walk long distances especially uphill, being away from my primary health care facilities, and spending time in the proximity of large quantities of huge disgusting insects and poisonous reptiles. Did I ever mention I have extreme insect fear?  Check that…extreme insect disgust. You see, visiting the parts of the orient that I would like to see include seeing the less-traveled places, and that means jungles and remote forests. Not gonna happen me thinks. So, where AM I bound for with all this time and opportunity? Why, the U.S., of course!  “SEE THE USA IN A CHEVROLET!” Well, not in a Chevrolet.  Read on and I will explain.

We have ventured into the World of American RV Travel. Not to be confused with camping, RV’ing is a whole other animal.  For Loretta and I, camping has never been a viable mode of recreation.  Honestly, our disdain for sleeping in a tent with the dirt and insects is only eclipsed by the amount of effort it takes to successfully accomplish a camping trip.  Yes, as kids we both fully embraced the joys of camping out in the wilderness, by a lake or river, fishing and playing amongst the wonders of nature. Our family did a lot of camping.  And the one aspect of it I never forgot was the fact that Mom and Dad did all the hard work:  the planning, the packing, the driving, the setting up, the cooking, the cleaning, and the pack out.  All we did soon after arriving at the camp site was hit the dirt running and playing and fishing and swimming. Sure, there is a certain amount of effort and energy required to get the motorhome ready, but it isn’t much compared to camping.  And, to say the least, accommodations when you arrive at your destination are much more comfortable than a tent.

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So, in what direction are we setting our compass? To paraphrase a quote from Napoleon Dynamite, “Wherever I feel like I wanna go, gosh!”

Without spewing the entire list of our intended RV destinations, just let me say this…we are literally 2 hours away from Yosemite, 3 hours from Lake Tahoe, and 3 hours from seaside destinations like Big Sur, Jenner Beach, and Monterey. And these are just the short trips for 3 or 4 days at a time.  I’m trying to plan a few long jaunts to, say, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, British Columbia, even Florida.

Unfortunately, as I write this, our motel-on-wheels is in the shop, has been for nye onto 3 weeks. We are being held hostage by the dealer and associated repair shop to complete our sales contract, i.e., fix the problems. This annoying delay in our travel plans isn’t costing anything other than frustration…so we wait.  But that’s O.K. Loretta and I our both antsy to get going somewhere.  She has expressed this angst to me many times of late, “I can’t wait to get it back so I can put our things in it and go somewhere!”  Yes, she is the self-appointed packer and loader.  I am the planner, driver, and cook.  Notice I didn’t say chief cook and bottle washer as Loretta insists on doing the latter…I don’t argue with that.

So, we will still plan another cruise sometime soon (we cruised to Alaska in July), but our main vacation mode will be the RV.

I only wish the same retirement future for anyone in our age group.  At this age, we (you) deserve it…whatever mode you choose.

Tally Ho!

P.S. I promise to post pictures and stories of our travels here.