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.

To cruise or not

Loretta and I finally went on a cruise. After years of contemplating this and after much hesitation from me we did it. An 11-day Alaskan cruise on Princess this past July.

We sailed from San Francisco on the beautiful, huge Star Princess. As with most ships this size, it is basically a floating resort…several pools, lots of hot tubs, many restaurants and cocktail lounges, shops, shows, and so on.

We chose a balcony stateroom which, in my opinion, is the only way to go. Much of our sightseeing was done from the comfort of our own private patio. And although we did go on a few shore excursions, our favorite times were spent on the ship.

Briefly, our itinerary was as follows: San Francisco to Ketchikan, Ketchikan to Tracy Arm fjord, Tracy Arm to Juneau, Juneau to Icy Straight Point, Icy Straight Point to Victoria, Victoria to San Francisco. There were several days at sea in both direction and an entire day cruise the Tracy Arm fjord. The weather was incredible the whole trip, especially when we were in port. Out on the bounding main, it did get a bit rough at times, however, for the most part, it was a smooth sailing.

Underway, and getting ready to go under the GGB.
Underway, and getting ready to go under the GGB.
Sailing party on deck.
Sailing party on deck.
The adult pool.  It was much to cool and windy at sea to strip down for a swim here.
The adult pool. It was much too cool and windy at sea to strip down for a swim here.
Our ship while on a tour of Ketchikan.
Our ship while on a tour of Ketchikan.
Heading for Tracy Arm fjord.
Heading for Tracy Arm fjord.

Since this was our first cruise, I have no way to compare cruise lines or other ships. Let me say this, I would highly recommend The Star Princess. It was very comfortable. Our stateroom, though small, was very cozy. You have the same steward the whole time. He was very accommodating, courteous, and efficient. Room service was lightning fast.

The Tracy Arm fjord.  Sawyer glacier in the background.
The Tracy Arm fjord. Sawyer glacier in the background.
Sawyer glacier.
Sawyer glacier.
Our captain sailed this huge ship all the way up the fjord.  Then, "spun" it around to steam back out.  Incredible.
Our captain sailed this huge ship all the way up the fjord. Then, “spun” it around to steam back out. Incredible.
Icy Point Straight.
Icy Point Straight.
Loretta at the Mendenhall glacier outside Juneau.
Loretta at the Mendenhall glacier outside Juneau.
Overlooking Juneau.
Overlooking Juneau.

Overall, the food was not bad. We mostly ate in one of two buffet rooms, but we also tried each of the restaurants including the two fine dining restaurants (requiring a cover charge). Food is always available and is part of the faire. Alcohol and soft drinks are extra as well as couple of special seafood buffets that were offered. Wait and service staff were abundant and very friendly and helpful.

Humpback whales...and more whales near Ice Straight Point.
Humpback whales…and more whales near Ice Straight Point.

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Spectacular scenes like these were common.
Spectacular scenes like these were common.

Regarding things to do, there were many things scheduled each day…too many to go into here. A 2-page brochure was delivered to our room nightly outlining the next days activities including the shows. We attended several stage show productions as well as a couple of comedian shows. They were all very entertaining.

One of the buffet areas.
One of the buffet areas.
The indoor pool.
The indoor pool.
The "Piazza".
The “Piazza”.
Another view of the Piazza.
Another view of the Piazza.
Harbor, Victoria, B.C.
Harbor, Victoria, B.C.
The B.C.parliament building, downtown Victoria.
The B.C.parliament building, downtown Victoria.
The Star Princess docked at Victoria.
The Star Princess docked at Victoria.

There were really no negatives or big surprises to mention, except, perhaps, when we received our final bill! The cruise was paid in advance, but all on ship spending is added to an account attached to your credit card. No cash is ever exchanged on the ship. Every other expense such as alcohol, soft drinks, shopping purchases, casino gambling, and shore excursions are charged to your room account. So, they make it quite easy to over indulge and over spend. So be it.

Getting on and off the ship before, during, and after is very organized and efficient. Of course, there are times when it gets crowded disembarking or coming back…we managed to avoid most by going early and coming back early. FYI – getting on a off the ship involves TSA-type screening, though it goes a lot fast than at the airport.

The "crowd" trying to get back on the ship after a half day in Victoria.  We came back early.  Timing is everything.
The “crowd” trying to get back on the ship after a half day in Victoria. We came back early. Timing is everything.
5 am, last day.  Sailing into S.F. Bay
5 am, last day. Sailing into S.F. Bay
Under the G.G. Bridge.
Under the G.G. Bridge.
Almost home.
Almost home.
Getting ready to parallel park a 900 foot cruise ship...no tugs!
Getting ready to parallel park a 900 foot cruise ship…no tugs!

We did book a future (undetermined) cruise with Princess while onboard as the deposit is greatly reduced and fully refundable for 2 years. We plan to go somewhere in January but haven’t quite decided where. We had thought about the 10 day Mexican Riviera thing, but have kind of decided against it. Perhaps the Caribbean.  Needless to say, it is difficult to decide which photos to post, especially when I took over 1500 of them. Check out more Alaska cruise photos HERE.

Simple pleasures.  Cruising is a great way to go.
Simple pleasures. Cruising is a great way to go.

Of course we are going again, maybe even Alaska again as there are many other ports to visit. The scenery is breathtaking to say the least!