Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Road Coffee

My first memory of coffee while camping, is from the early 70's. I wasn't even a teen at that time, so the memory doesn't involve drinking it--only observing the process, enjoying the smell and the ritual. A morning ritual that brought people out of their sleeping bags, rubbing their eyes, ready to begin another day spent in the company of community.

My folks and their friends enjoyed camping on Dry Creek in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, situated on the Carson side of Mt. St. Helens. It wasn't a campsite by today's standards. N explained it was probably a road/turn-around made by water trucks, to fill their tanks during fire season. I know there was an evolution of camping equipment over the years, but the time I remember most clearly is when everyone in the group had a camper on their trucks.

Despite trying to massage my grey matter into releasing a clearer picture, I can't remember if there was one shared coffee pot with a designated brewer or if everyone had their own. Though, I can visualize an active stainless steel percolator near the morning campfire--maybe on a grate belonging to one of the group. And there's an image of a white cup (small by my current standard) filled with a light brown brew. Coffee was most likely an extravagance when raising five children, so I imagine stretching that can of Folgers or Maxwell House was a priority.

When N and I were first married, being the only drinker, I never bothered with coffee when we went camping. Besides, if it didn't fit in the trunk of our little sedan, we didn't bring it. Later, when storage was less of an issue, I brought instant coffee and after that  "coffee bags". Coffee bags or "coffee singles" are a small step up from instant, and the taste was slightly better. Years later, when we bought a tent trailer, my home coffee ritual had changed along with the rest of the country. I bought beans, ground them only when I made a pot, kept the brew in a thermos instead of "burning it". And while I esteemed a cup made in a French press, I still liked the convenience of a coffee maker. But, I decided, a French press was perfect to create my own morning ritual while camping.

An important detail when camping: whether you're in a tent or a motorhome (not the king sized variety), water needs to be used conservatively. I did my best to find a way to use as little water as possible while cleaning my French press, but it was a messy process. During a trip with friends, I noticed they used a pour over method using a filter. The results weren't great, but I didn't discount the process.

This summer we made the move from tent trailer to travel trailer. Another opportunity to change the way I make my coffee! At least that seems to be what happens whenever I've taken time to sort through our equipment. With both the memory of the pour over cones and a local coffee shop that always talks about different brewing methods on their Facebook stream, I began to search. What I like about the French press is the ability to decide how long to immerse the ground beans in the hot water. Enter the Clever Coffee Dripper, made by the small Taiwan company, ABID (Absolutely Best Idea Development).

The results? I think the brew is as full of the same bold flavors as what the French press offers, but it's a step up. The tones are clearer and a muddiness (I hadn't noticed until now) was absent. Oh and the clean-up? Since a filter is used in the Clever, all I do is toss and rinse. How clever is that?

Ps. During some discussions following this blogpost, I learned another great option is the Bialetti Moka Pot. My only concern is whether a camp stove flame can be adjusted to the correct temperature. Plus I heard they work best when used on a regular basis. I might have to pick one up just to play with and to see how much water is needed for clean-up.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tomato Galette

Ever since N and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a fresh blackberry galette during a visit to The Bread Board in Falls City several years ago, galettes have been on my mind. I'd never heard of them before that day, but thanks to Google I've learned the crusts are as varied as the possible fillings.

[Enter our summer friend, the lovely tomato--or even better, the heirloom tomato.] 

Last week, dear Fran had been searching for tomato galette recipes. In her absence, I found a printed copy of Smitten Kitchen's version in the printer tray. She's been leaving me on my own in the kitchen, which can either be "fine and dandy" or "umm, what were you trying to make?". Lucky for the eaters in the house, all was fine and dandy.

A couple of years ago, we began buying the giant sized tomato plants from Godfrey's Nursery. As a result, we've been able to harvest tomatoes instead of just growing plants in our shady backyard. Add to that the lovely heirloom tomatoes that came our way via MIG's farm.

Enough chatter, here's what I did:
I made the crust from the Smitten Kitchen recipe up above, but used a Food52 tomato tart recipe as a guide for what went into that crust. I didn't roast the garlic, but I did use a fork and olive oil to make a paste. Also, I added about a Tablespoon of pre-made pesto. The tomatoes could've cared less about the garlic, pesto, onion and cheese. Their bright flavor shone through. Each bite made me swoon. The tomato galette is a keeper.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Lost

If I remember correctly, it was last year that Fran began to ask who would like to join her on a hike in the McDonald Forest near Corvallis. This happened not long after she went with Lise and Brian. That experience was a hike that was less a hike than a chance for Lise to take photos and realize how long it had been since she'd hiked up a steep hill. I know that feeling. It's very clear to my muscles even four days later. Of course, Fran knew that if Lise went with her that it would be for taking pictures, but reality is always different from what we imagine. Isn't it?

This summer she had asked if either N, I or both of us would join her. But the timing was never right and the memory of that last recounting was still fresh in my mind. Then the moment and desire happened to line up last week. Watching from above, I couldn't believe it was me agreeing (perhaps even suggesting) to go along. I nixed the idea of bringing the pups. Who knows why--a premonition?

We filled our water bottles and drove the scenic route to our destination. Once on the path, the warmth and the incline had me feeling my age. Who cares if you've been walking 50+ miles a week on hikes and treadmill? A woodland trail doesn't! But if you're going to walk uphill, there isn't a better way really--a soft path, the cover of a forest and a happy companion make it less work and more recreation.

All was fine for the first 3+ miles. We were (finally) atop a ridge and done with the steady incline. But then it all changed. In our path was a detour sign (prominently displayed), which we heeded. And then another. The second detour brought us to the decision between a path and a road without a sign. We chose the path. The path took us to a lovely view, but it circled back to where we made the choice. Fran decided that the road was where we wanted to go.

A little voice inside my head suggested we might be headed down the opposite side of the ridge, but my sense of direction has rarely steered me right. Rarely. The road, with it's fresh loose gravel, had the same incline as the path we hiked up--minus the shade. Two white trucks, associated with the logging unit that had been the reason for the detour, passed us for the first of four times. Each time they slowed and gave us a big wave. Of course, we smiled and waved back.

Somewhere between Soap Creek Road and our current road, we began to seriously question where we were. When a phone signal was finally available, our gps informed us that we were on the wrong side of the forest and miles of paved road and highway were in our future.

I'll sum up the unplanned part of our hike by saying how a walk on either a shoulder-less paved road or a highway are less than pleasant. It was the kind of experience that had me asking Fran for stories. Anything to distract from the sun beating down on us and the cars whipping by (one honking for some unfathomable reason).

When the turn-off for the secondary access to the McDonald Forest came into focus, my step quickened and my mood lightened. Soon we were back on a forest trail, believing it was possible to be home by dinner time. We still had a few miles to go and only a gulp of water left, but we made it and I may have made a spectacle of myself (if there had been bystanders) expressing my joy at seeing our car.  Our mileage for the day totaled 9.21. My weak back muscles waited until the following Monday to punish me for the excursion, but if she asks me to go on a hike again I'll probably say yes--as long as the moment and desire line up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Where is your compassion?

Do you only take it out of your pocket

To show to friends

To parade at parties

Or is it always on your sleeve

Not to be seen so much as to be felt

Slid across your cheek

To remind that you too have a vulnerable self

Who needs compassion?

Those cutting words you utter in private

Leave shadows across your face

A crick in your neck

A hitch in your step

And when you are aged

You will be asking,

Where is your compassion?

~KGM '14

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fusilli with Fennel, Spring Onions and Carrots

(I'm not positive which website this recipe originated from, so I'm going to include both links.)

This recipe was a taste of spring, but with filling pasta. The difference between the two recipes seems to be the type of pasta suggested. I keep trying to ignore that the academic site spelled fennel fronds wrong. (Get over it, K!)

Changes we made:
  • used gemelli pasta
  • Cut carrots in half, strips, and finally half inch pieces. 
  • removed garlic immediately after quick 30 second saute
  • added carrots a few minutes before fennel
  • saved pasta water for end.

( first site)Fusilli with braised fennel, carrots and spring onions
(second site)Whole Grain Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots and Spring Onions

This simple and light pasta recipe includes some of the most typical Mediterranean vegetables.


Paired with grilled pork "riblets", salad and cantaloupe
Servings 4
¾ lb fusilli
2 cloves of garlic
½ lb fennel
3 ½ oz carrot
7 oz spring onions
3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fennel frawns, chopped
2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 minutes preparation + 25 minutes cooking
Slice the fennel bulbs in half, then into thin slices. Peel the carrot and slice into rounds, 1/8th inch wide. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and slice the onion into ¼ inch pieces.

Then in a fairly large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Once hot, add the minced garlic. Once the garlic begins to golden, add the fennel and carrot and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir from time to time.

Then add the onion to the previously cooked vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain after the time indicated on the bow and toss with the sauce.

Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and garnish with the fennel fronds before serving.