Friday, July 13, 2018


      As old as Germany itself, this recipe brings out the best in the culture.  Pork Hocks (or knuckle), open fire, traditional seasonings and Hot Potato Salad and Dumplings.  There is no down side here.  I have eaten this many times and within the past several years have found if I request the larger 'hocks' from a local butcher I can create this as I wish.  When selecting them I ask to see their largest.  The bigger the better.  The natural thick skin of a pork hock serves well for holding seasonings and controlling temps while over the fire.  I picked my hocks this year from Stewarts Meats in McKenna, WA.  This is a regional favorite in Western Washington for any type of meat product you desire.
      First off, lay your hocks out on a cutting board and let rise to room temperature.  Then spread and rub in a mix of:

2 Tblspn sea salt
4 cloves, ground
4 juniper berries, ground
10 black peppercorns, ground

NOTE:  These proportions can be modified as to your particular tastes.

Seasoned Hocks
      Grind using mortar and pestle.  Then place in the refrigerator uncovered for 12-24 hours.  When ready to cook thread the hocks on a rotisserie spit and rotate over a high fire heat until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  I roast my hocks on my Aus Spit over my outdoor fire pit using a mix of maple and cherry wood.  This normally takes about 2 hours, depending on fire.  These were BIG hocks and took a bit over 3 hours.  When ready, remove from the spit and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Almost done on the spit
       I usually finish this off serving it with Potato Dumplings, Spätzle, or Hot German Potato Salad.  These recipes will not be published at this time as they are my mother's (and generations before) personal recipes and out of respect for them I will only share the picture.  These hocks were big enough only one side dish was needed.  The best of Deutschland.  Joie de Vivre!  

Bon Appetite'

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was Thank You, that would suffice" 
Meister Eckhart

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Girl Gets Back In The Game

      When I met Barb she was also an avid hunter and fisherman, but as the years progressed she settled in with fishing.  She was always a good shot and her skill in bow hunting was just as impressive.  Recently, after a number of my retiree trips for bear, deer, and pig hunting Barb expressed an interest in once again 'joining the fray'.  I couldn't be happier.  
      The weapons I shoot are much larger than she would be comfortable with (7mm Rem Mag, 45 Long Colt, 45/70 Gov't.) so I spent some time with research.  I wanted a bolt action weapon (in my opinion the most accurate) in a caliber that she would be comfortable shooting.  After much research and talking with other friends I trust we decided on the 7mm-08 Remington.  An exceptional caliber for ballistics as well as a 'not too brutal' recoil.  This caliber would provide excellent ballistics out to several hundred yards as well as knockdown power for any and all game Barb would want to conquer.  The 150 grain Federal Power Shok Speer Bullet with Hot Cor technology pumps 2650 fps at 2350 flbs providing all the energy and knock power Barb will ever need.

      Even in light of all the recent CRAP involving Remington Barb chose to go with the Remington Model Seven in synthetic stock, stainless finish.  Weighing in at a 6 1/2 pounds it fit her very nicely.  We ordered this through Lake Effect Guns n Gear in Kalkaska, MI.  Next we would search for an appropriate scope in stainless finish to complete her rifle.
      We selected the scope in a Nikon Pro Staff 2.5 x 10 with rings and mounts.  Because we use our Cabela's card so much during the year we had accumulated enough bonus points to get the scope for $88 less.  Nice!  We had the scope mounted and bore sighted at Lake Effect Guns and Gear as well.  She sighted it in at our farm using the Caldwell Gun Sled.  As always the initial set up is a booger, but once completely adjusted she adapted.  It was a very hot morning to shoot and the rifle provided 'balls on tight groups' right out of the box. Our goal is .67" low at 25 yards which will put it dead on at 100 yards.  I wanted to sight the rifle on it's initial upward trajectory as it will continue to rise through zero and fall again within it at 100 yards, our site in target.  We finished up this morning at about 1 1/2" low.  It will take a bit more tuning.  There is never any hurry to get it right.  Finding accurate ballistic tables for this round online proved to be challenging, but Nikon provides a very helpful website that more than solved our problem. 

"Some people wait their entire lives to meet their hunting buddy....I married mine"  
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Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Iron Pig Smokehouse, Gaylord, Michigan

      This is my first review of an 'up north' BBQ eatery as I have been hesitant cause BBQ is SO VERY DIFFERENT across the country.  Texas, Oklahoma, Memphis, Kansas City, the Carolinas and the Deep South all have their own styles of cooking with smoke and the BBQ sauces are nowhere alike.  I have eaten Q several times around the north and have found not one to be of the same quality and taste of the south.  Sorry, it is what it is.  I LOVE the Southern Q, especially Texas.  But, I like to keep an open mind and love the Q.  I have seen this restaurant advertised and recommended by a couple of friends on Facebook.  
      Barb and I visited the Iron Pig on a weekend just before July 4th.  It was a HOT weekend, in fact it was nearly 100 degrees this night.  It is easy to find on West Main Street in downtown Gaylord.  Parking can be an issue so plan on arriving early.   They do take reservations.  This place is essentially a small bar (approx. 44 people) with tables and bar seating for dining.  There is one big screen TV.  Also there are trivia game stations at every table just like at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Arrive early, find a place to sit, and then place your order at the window.

      I had scouted the menu in advance.  This is always a good idea so you know what you are or are not getting in advance.  They offer several good looking appetizers including Smoked Mac n Cheese, Spicy Chili, and Cheese Curds.  The menu also includes a selection of sandwiches including the smoked brisket, Reuben, Pulled Chicken and Pork, and Kielbasa, Salads, Burgers, and even a small Mexican selection.  There is even a small menu for kids.  They do offer an online ordering system if so desired.  The BBQ section is pretty straightforward, but somewhat small.  They offer a Half or Full Rack of Ribs, Brisket Platter, 3 Piece Chicken Platter, and a Sampler Platter.  I was hoping for some Pork Belly or Burnt Ends.  Even the Pulled Pork is only offered on a sandwich.
      Barb and I ordered the Half Rack of Ribs and Brisket Platter with the intent of swapping meats back and forth to sample.  Both platters came with Homemade Coleslaw, Smoked Beans, Onion/Cukes, and Jalapeno Cornbread.

      The ribs were Baby Backs and the brisket was already chopped when served.  I like the brisket still in slice so I can taste and savor the bark.  Everything is smoked over cherry wood.  BBQ sauce was served on top of the ribs as well as on side for both dishes.  First of all the meat was lightly smoked, tender, moist, and delicious.  The BBQ sauce was lightly spiced, but with a little too much Cumin.  The BBQ beans were tasty, the coleslaw was absolutely dry with no dressing, the sliced onions and cukes were good, but the cornbread was sweet with no Jalapeno taste or spiciness whatsoever.  The cornbread was also served covered with a sweet brown sauce.  Our meat was excellent, but the BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and cornbread were sadly lacking.  Don't call it Jalapeno Cornbread if there isn't any.  I remind myself that this is 'northern Q' and they take pride in their own tastes and styles.  Total cost for our meals with large iced tea was $34.95.  The service was excellent. 
      Overall, we found the Iron Pig Smokehouse to be decent Q.  It is a somewhat small venue so arrive early.  The ribs didn't last, but Barb did bring quite a bit of the brisket home to make a sandwich later with my BBQ Sauce. 

"Being so closely related to the south, barbeque was part of segregation and helped defeat it" 
Bobby Seale
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Shawarma Without the Politics

      What a beautiful summer.  Things around the Ponderosa are progressing with clean up, move back in, and settling back in to our 'home lifestyle'.  It inspires me to further explore new cuisines.  I have always wanted to try to prepare Middle Eastern, most notably Lebanese and the dish of Shawarma.  I ate plenty of this during my MANY trips to the Middle East during my USAF career.  This area is known for it's myriad dishes of meat, citrus, legumes, nuts, and assorted vegetables, but always spiced to perfection.  For me this cuisine was a welcome diversion from the many days spent there for reasons above and far beyond the simple folks who live there. Such staples such as lamb, chicken, goat, etc. are usually marinated with a thick mixture containing yogurt for a day and then grilled or roasted.  It is usually served either in a pita type bread or with it on the side with spiced pickles and a garlic dipping sauce.  For this meal we use a recipe from the Livernois Tap in Ferndale, MI using chicken wings.  
      These wings get their tenderness from being marinated in a highly spiced Greek Yogurt.  The key to the flavor is toasting the cumin and black peppercorns to intensify their flavor.  Once marinated they are slowly cooked until tender and finished on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.  I also used Smoked Paprika to accentuate this flavor.

2 dozen wings, cleaned
1 Tblspn cumin
1 tspn black peppercorns
1 Tblspn smoked paprika
1 tspn turmeric
3/4 tspn garlic powder
2 tspn salt
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

      Clean your wings and place them in a large bowl, set aside.   In a small skillet, toast the cumin and black peppercorns over medium heat while constantly stirring.  You should see smoke wisps when toasting.  Remove these and put on a plate to cool.  Once cool, grind these spices to a powder with a mortar and pestle.  Place in bowl and mix with the smoked paprika, turmeric, garlic powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Reserve 2 Tblspn.

Mix the remaining spices with the Greek yogurt.  Add the spiced yogurt mixture to the chicken and toss to coat evenly.  Marinate chicken in refrigerator for 12-24 hours

     When ready to cook, preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a sided baking sheet.  Cover tightly with foil, sealing edges.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken wings are very tender and cooked through.  Heat grill, sprinkle wings with reserved spices and grill for 6-7 minutes or until grill marks present.  Serve hot with Tzatziki, rice, Tajine seasoned cukes, or spiced pickles.  Although this recipe used chicken wings, I served pita and tzatziki sauce on the side if the desire rises to make either a sandwich or eat them like wings with a pita side.  Either way it is delicious.

" Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out from the inside"
Lebanese Proverb

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hot Summer? Try a Cous Cous Salad

      This time of year the heat really begins to rise and sometimes even raise it's ugly head earlier than expected.  For us that either means grilling outside or something fresher, such as salads.  In my on again off again venture to lose weight I have always been able to prepare and enjoy the healthier menu items.  For the unfamiliar Cous Cous is a North African type of Semolina made from crushed Durum Wheat.  It turns out to be quite delicious when prepared correctly.  
     We tried it several times last summer at mom's house and found it to be quite bland until I began to prepare it using chicken broth instead of water.  Then I discovered some in the stores that are already flavored.  This is a recipe that uses flavored Cous Cous with the addition of some ingredients we favor and resulted in a very tasty dish that can be enjoyed as a meal in itself.  The choice of a meat topping is your own:  grilled chicken, beef, pork, or lamb.  Plan on about 1/4 pound per serving. On this meal I added a pound of ground Wild Boar sautéed.   

1 cup chicken broth or water
3/4 cup cous cous uncooked
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped, unpeeled cucumber
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
3 Tblspn Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tblspn Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tblspn Dijon Mustard
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan, stir in cous cous.  Remove from heat, let stand covered 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, uncover and let cool.  Combine cooked cous cous, cherries, almonds, green onions, carrots, cucumber in a large bowl, mix well.
Combine vinegar, olive oil, and mustard in a small container and mix well. Pour over cous cous mixture, stirring well to combine all ingredients.  Season with salt n pepper.  Place on individual plates and top with meat of choice. Serve cooled or warm.

"Don't be afraid to adapt new ingredients into your own techniques and traditional ingredients into new recipes" 
Jose Garces
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(much like my diet it's on again off again)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Buffalo Gap Campground

      We are always looking for somewhere new to boondock along our routes, especially from Michigan to Washington.  When it came to our excursions across Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana it got a little dicey at times.  If your are looking for a regular full service RV park in this area the pickings are slim.  We used to stay at an RV park just across the border in Glendive, MT, but it has since been replaced by a hotel.  For several years we overnighted at the Pilot Truck Stop just across the North Dakota side of the border, but the last time we were awoken middle of the night saying we couldn't park our RV when semis needed the room.  There is however, another small campground just east of Beach, ND.  This is a USFS National Grasslands Park called Buffalo Gap.

      It is located at exit 18 and a 1/4 mile north of the interstate.  This campground is open all year, but limited services in the winter and I can only assume this means the water is turned off.  We have stayed here before, but in the last 7-8 years it has been closed to maintenance issues and no available funds from the Department of the Interior to fix things.
      This is a 'dry camping' arrangement, BUT with some facilities.  The camping fee is ONLY $6, but with our Golden Access Pass this becomes $3 per night.  Either way it is good deal.  There are flush toilets with hot showers for a small fee.   The entire park is paved and each site has a fire ring.  For RVs, sites are not always level and will require some 'adjusting'.  The issue of dry camping is easily solved.  Remember the evil Pilot Truck Stop?  They have a place for RVs to dump and water up for free.  So, when we're eastbound we usually gas up there, water up, and proceed to Buffalo Gap.   There are 11 water spigots with potable water around the campground, but not threaded, making it suitable for water jugs and the like.  As there is no electricity we employ our boondocking protocol living off the battery bank for the evening.  Generator backup is always available.
Leveling this puppy was a challenge; uphill and tilted
       We use this as an overnight stay on our way further west to Great Falls or east to Fargo.  It is quite comfortable with BIG OPEN SKIES and stars.  The freeway noise is just across the hill, but we never mind.  If you do decide to stay longer, Medora is only 7 miles to the east. 
Medora, ND
      Explore this website as it details the incredible amount of entertainment, culture, and exploration available in the area, including the Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park.

The Badlands......Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park, ND
      This is a relatively unexplored area of the country, but there is SO MUCH to discover and enjoy here.  It is the Great West, the Badlands.  For us it is a stopover in a convenient place, but it doesn't have to be just that.  Take the time to enjoy America.  She's always been here.  Joie de Vivre!  

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are"
Theodore Roosevelt

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Searching for Ansel Adams

      It has taken over 2 years as well as countless miles, shots, and editing, but my next book is scheduled for release in May.  Searching for Ansel Adams is an 81 page black and white expose of my best works so far.   I have always, as have so many, admired the depth and stark reality of Ansel Adam's work.  It was his efforts over the years that generated vast interest, virtually saving the National Parks System.  Nearly everything is shot full frame RAW color and then edited to BW in post.  I use Adobe Lightroom for nearly all of my post processing work.  This follows my 20015 release of The Mind's Eye, my first publication and a 31 page expose of my best early color shots.  Both of these publications I have produced myself as when you are starting out, you have to sponsor yourself via your own wallet.  My sales only help me to break even as well as get my work out there.  

      I have always loved photography, preferring to freelance my art.  I am trying to start a small business, responding to the demand from some folks to sell some of my work.  I have set up a couple of vendors that will make my work into canvas and I am looking into 'glass sets' as well.  I am looking for something a bit different than a typical frame hung wall picture or print.  I am very happy with the first two canvas shots I had made.  I will be creating a website showing the gallery of what I consider to be my finest work as well as my two books for purchase.  You will be able to decide what size and how you want your selections mounted and shipped to you.  Price will, of course, depend on size.  I won't really know book prices (to include shipping) until I get my production/shipment and final invoice.  I am planning on book prices to be $20 and $4 for shipping (if needed)  I will announce any and all information once my website is completed, but will also preview the entire inventory on Facebook.  Any of my Western Washington 'Homies' wanting to purchase a copy of the new book should contact me directly as we are heading out within a day or two of receipt of the shipment.  I will deliver this personally.
      My first book I produced through Shutterfly, but this current release will be done through a local recommended publisher Gorham Publishing of Centralia, WA.  They have proven very easy to work with and helped me to modify and accomplish some things I never would have thought of myself.  As I embark on this journey I will keep my focus on quality, not on sales.  I only want to better myself through my art and so that others may enjoy it as well.
      For those of you always asking about a cookbook as the kitchen is my other great passion......relax.  It may be coming down the road a few years.  I also have a few good ideas about a cross country expose of rural America on the back burner as well.  

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one
Saint Augustine

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