D O I N G | traveling

When my family is traveling, we’re always in a rush. The more time we spend driving, the quicker we can arrive at our destination. We fill up our gas tank and drive as long as it will take us to the next gas station. Within the same stop we stretch our legs, take a bathroom break, and gather our snacks for the next 400 miles. This last road trip, we made the spontaneous decision to explore an exit, “Historic Durham.” I wanted to see more of the places I was traveling through and not just passing by their signs on the interstate. We discovered an abandoned building next to a baseball field. We parked our car and enjoyed our almond butter and jelly sandwiches. Come to find out, there was a little history behind that old abandoned building.

 

Catsburg Country Store   July 17, 2014


 Catsburg Country Store April 7, 1987

Built in the 1920′s, still functioning in the late 80′s. [1] This part of town is called Catsburg as a tribute to the late Sheriff Belvin, whose nickname was “Cat.” Belvin was an extremely popular sheriff in Durham County who earned his nickname through his ability to sneak up on bootleggers and moonshiners in the 1920s. Little to nothing is known of “Cat” but some say that his knack for finding local stills had much to do with him being a Distiller and wiping out the competition. [2]

photo credit Open Durham courtesy of The Herald-Sun Newspaper

K I T C H E N | camp meals

Over the weekend my family went camping at Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina.  For me, getting outdoors is always a way to break old routines and find a new perspective. And especially when camping, it forces you to leave your luxuries behind and bring only the most important things. I can live without phone service, television, a hot shower, a soft bed, and internet connection. My hardest obstacle was planning camp meals.

I’m accustomed to cooking on a stove top or in the oven. I had to minimize my regular cook times of 30 minutes-1 hour, to preparing an entire meal for a family of 4, in less than 10 minutes. Our meals included non-perishable items, such as McCann’s Irish Oatmeal for breakfast, Ramen for lunch, and Amy’s tomato soup for dinner. I left behind my refrigerated essentials, like butter and cheese, along with my cast iron pans, glass pots, Kitchen Aid, and wooden spoons. But this camping trip has made me realize that it’s not about what’s being cooked or how you cook your meal. It’s about being with family at meal time that makes those home cooked meals feel special. Every variable of our ordinary meal plans changed, except eating with each other. There wasn’t any expensive ingredients, fresh items, or ambitious recipe. Our meals cost less than a quarter to feed each of us and were cooked using a simple canister stove, but felt just as special as a home cooked meal.

Camp Cooking Essentials
• MSR SuperFly canister stove
• MSR IsoPro fuel
• GSI Outdoors tea ketttle
• Bodum Bistro Mug Press
• Klean Kanteen insulated bottle and mug
• GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist cooking + eating solution
• Light My Fire spork

NOTE: this is not a sponsored post. All items posted are my personal favorite items I own, love, and recommend.

A B O U T | day hiking gear

Years ago, when I started finding more interest in the outdoors, I had trouble figuring out what gear was really essential.  It took a few outdoor trips to realize what was necessary and what really isn’t. I also had trouble bringing myself to make the purchases of “hiking gear” because it can be very expensive. But consider it an investment. All my day hiking gear has made my outdoor trips very comfortable, as well as finding use in my day-to-day lifestyle.

NOTE: this is not a sponsored post. All items posted are my personal favorite items I own, love, and recommend.

 

1. ALITE Hikari Pack

2. nalgene 32oz wide mouth bottle

3. Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp

4. Burt’s Bees Bug Bite Relief

5. Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell Jacket

6. Teva Original Sandal

1. The ALITE Hikari pack, is very multi-functional. It can be used as a backpack for hiking, biking, or walking in the city. It also converts to a shoulder and tote bag with many pockets to organize your trips essentials.  Not only does it accommodate all your travel needs, but it looks awesome too.  2. The nalgene wide mouth bottle has been my most used item on the list. I use it everyday. It’s easy to toss in your bag or use the cap attachment, with a clip, to hang anywhere. 3.  The Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp is one of those, “you can’t miss what you never had” things. It’s great for it’s obvious reason, to help see if it gets dark. But It’s been great to use around the house for power outages, working under the house, in the attic, or even play hide and seek with the kids at night.  4. Burt’s Bees bug bite relief stick has been my favorite itch stick for many years. It’s always an essential to pack for hiking trips. When I’m home, I like to keep it in the medicine cabinet to have ready, after those summer evenings playing outside. It’s shaped like chap stick, so it makes it easy to apply and is not wet and sticky like other brands. 5. The Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell Jacket, has been my favorite investment. I purchased this jacket a couple years ago and it’s still as great as it was when it was first purchased. It’s great for day hiking, but I still use it year round on rainy, windy, and snowy days. It’s a great breathable jacket to wear alone or as a waterproof shell over other layers.  6. Teva Original Sandals are an affordable pair of comfortable sandals for hiking, but still functional and fashionable to wear everyday.

K I T C H E N | quick pickles

From garden to table. A freshly picked bunch of dill and a handful (armful) of kirby cucumbers for today’s recipe. For 2 weeks I’ve collected enough kirby cucumbers in my garden to make 4 jars of pickles. My first attempt to make pickles was great, except too salty. My second attempt, I accidentally used the wrong salt (you need pickling salt or I’ve read kosher works too). My third attempt was perfect! I made a fourth jar just to give my recipe another run and I’d say this recipe is locked in, I’m ready to share. This recipe was adapted from my own experience of trial and error, with the perfect blend of vinegar, sweetness, and flavor. The pickles can be ready to eat within a few hours, I prefer to eat them after they are fully brined and chilled overnight.


QUICK PICKLES
6 kirby cucumbers
BRINE INGREDIENTS:
2 cups water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar (I used NAKANO – no sodium – no sugar)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp pickling salt
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp pickling spices
1 tsp mustard seed
1 pinch red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves
1 fresh bunch of dill

 

METHOD cut and discard top and bottom of all cucumbers. Slice cucumbers lengthwise to desired size. I cut large cucumbers into 1/8 and small cucumbers in 1/4. Place in a shallow pan in an even layer and reserve for pickle brine.

 METHOD place all brine ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pour hot brine in shallow pan, evenly covering cucumbers. Let cool at room temperature before storing. Pickles will last in a sealed container up to a week.

K I T C H E N | ratatouille

From garden to table.  We have been very fortunate this year with our garden, all thanks to a couple of helping hands, good weather, and having the time it takes to maintain. It’s been very exciting, as all the vegetables are steadily growing and we can now provide ourselves with our first complete, home grown meal of the season (with just a few ingredients from the store). A recipe shared from a book I am currently enjoying, the smitten kitchen cookbook.


smitten kitchen ratatouille

RATATOUILLE
1 long, thin eggplant
1 long, thin zucchini
1 long, thin yellow squash
2 red bell peppers
1 small yellow onion
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
salt (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tbsp thyme
METHOD prepare vegetables: trim ends from the eggplant, zucchini, squash, red pepper and onion, and, slice with a very sharp knife into 1/16 inch thick pieces. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread tomato sauce into a 2-quart baking dish. Stir in onions, garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Arrange slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and red pepper so that they overlap. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with thyme. Cover dish with foil, bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and increase oven temperature to 425°, bake 15 more minutes.

RATATOUILLE + CHEESE SUB yields: 4, 6 inch subs. (or 8, 3 inch subs)
ratatouille
cheese (I used provolone)
1 24 inch baguette (or 4, 6 inch sub rolls)

METHOD preheat oven to 425°. Cut baguette into desired size. Split bread, making a top and bottom. Place the cheese on the inside of the top portion of your bread.  Toast 5 – 10 minutes, cheese side up. Assemble sub by carefully sliding a knife under one section of the fanned vegetables of ratatouille, and slide onto the bottom half of the toasted bread. Close each sub with the top half, cut into manageable lengths to eat, and serve.

 

K I T C H E N | chocolate chip cookies

Baking homemade chocolate chip cookies for somebody is like a gesture of love.

Today, is my sister’s birthday and the only adequate way I felt I could show my appreciation is through baking. Sure, I could buy a package of cookies for less than 3 dollars, but it’s about taking time from your own agenda to do something for someone else that makes hand making anything a special gift.

SPECIAL SUPPLIES: a 50 cent tin from a local thrift store.

Original recipe from Joy the Baker

The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (I used 67% CACAO dark chocolate bits)
coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top (optional)

METHOD Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place half the butter (8 tbsp) in a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling it in the pan occasionally. It’ll foam and froth as it cooks. The butter will start to smell nutty, and brown bits will form in the bottom.  (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes), remove the butter from the burner and immediately pour it into a small bowl, bits and all. Allow it to cool for 20 minutes.

Beat the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the brown sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.

Beat in the vanilla extract and molasses.

Pour the cooled brown butter into the bowl, along with the granulated sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, until smooth.

Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat for one minute more.

Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, beating on low speed just until everything is incorporated.

Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Flatten it slightly into a thick disk, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Scoop 2 tbsp of cookie dough and shape into balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2″ between the cookies.

Sprinkle the cookies with sea salt, to taste. (optional)

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to rest on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them.

A B O U T | gems

Today, a cowboy got left behind from a war the kids were playing with their cowboys and indians…

I love finding these little gems around the house. By gems I mean, things that are admired for it’s beauty or excellence, not stones. They’re usually the kids toys I discover in places they don’t belong. I find them in the laundry, my desk, the back of the toilet, window sills, dresser drawers, in the fruit bowl, etc…I leave them untouched.  As they get older, I know I’ll find less of these moments. And one day, there won’t be any toys laying round and I’m going to miss it.

I consider this a little sign of beauty in the life with raising kids: