Saturday, January 19, 2019

Wright's Family Steakhouse....Duncan, OK

      The world is full of great steak houses.  Oklahoma is no exception.  As per my original goal for some of this blog is to provide reviews of dining places off the beaten path.  Some famous, some not so much, but dedicated to good food.  This is such a place.  Located in the western industrial part of Duncan, OK and a true diamond in the rough.  I really can't say how long they have been in existence, but their following is both wide spread regional and very loyal.  We discovered this place when our in laws took us here 16 years ago.  We have eaten here several times since.  Our grandson loves it.  The building is an older design in a hexagonal shape and can handle a pretty good crowd.  This is always helpful. They will take reservations, but the majority of their business is 'walk in'......such is country life.  This seems more of a family place and not a Steak House you would expect; the end result is the key:  GOOD FOOD AT GOOD PRICES. 
      For us the key here has always been steak, although they do offer an excellent selection to include Chicken Fried Steak (a staple in Oklahoma), Fried Chicken Livers, Chicken Tenders, Catfish, and Fried Pork Chop among other items.  Unfortunately, and perhaps amazingly, they do not offer Prime Rib or a Porterhouse Steak.  Their appeal is across the menu.   
      The salad bar is phenomenal with a variety of fresh vegetables. This includes pea salad, cucumber salad, and all the homemade salad dressings. It also includes a 'hot bar' featuring homemade fried okra, green beans, brown beans, and a few more hot homemade choices like cabbage. There is also a baked potato bar to top off that huge tater you're gonna get with that steak.  At the end of the line you're greeted with hot homemade sweet cornbread.  The dessert bar is included with your meal and rotates quite a selection as well, but featured Peach Cobbler and Baked Apple Pie, both ala mode on our visit.  
Peach Cobbler ala Mode
      We arrived with our grandson on a Saturday night.  This boy has a reputation for really being able to strap on the 'feed bag'.  Of course what 17 year old can't?  After perusing the menu, Brock sets his sights on the 16 oz T Bone, Barb chose the 8 oz KC Strip, and I couldn't resist the 16 oz Ribeye.  
8 oz KC Strip
16 oz Ribeye

16 oz T Bone

      The total for our meal was $92.  The food was delicious as always.  The steaks were done to perfection; tender and tasty.  In fact Brock finished he entire T Bone and half of Barb's KC Strip as well.  I got some Fried Okra from the hot bar; probably the best I've ever had.  Barb got some cornbread and Brock destroyed the dinner rolls.  The cornbread was a bit dry.  I probably wouldn't get the Peach Cobbler ala Mode next time.  A big scoop of ice cream in the middle of a small bowl of cobbler w/o crust.  The atmosphere was very casual, clean, and warmly inviting.  The service was very 'family'; friendly, courteous, and prompt.  We came for a relaxing dinner with a great meal and we certainly got it.  I rate this one 4 STARS (out of 5) 

"No place is ever as bad as they tell you it's going to be" 
Chuck Thompson

WiFi courtesy of Town n Country RV Park

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Leftover Turkey Ideas Part 2: Croque Madame

        Yet here is another recipe to use with that leftover holiday shredded turkey.  By now we are enough past the holidays so that we once again hunger for a little long bearded bird.  This one really 'takes a left turn' when it comes to originality.  I have made Croque Madame several times.  It is a delicious grilled ham and cheese type sandwich.  The original recipe I use calls for French toast.  This recipe also allows for that if your tastes desire.  Call it what you will, it is a deli style sandwich using croissants and this twist on the holidays adds another taste dimension that will satisfy you.

• 1 cup leftover gravy or 1 cup milk
 • 1/2 cup milk • pinch of nutmeg
 • 12 ounces gruyere cheese shredded + divided
 • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
 • 2 croissants halved, or your favorite bread
 • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
 • 4 slices fried or baked crispy prosciutto
 • leftover turkey enough for 2 sandwiches
 • leftover mashed potatoes enough for 2 sandwiches
 • leftover cranberry sauce enough for 2 sandwiches
 • leftover roasted brussels sprouts or other veggies finely chopped
 • 2 fried eggs
 • crispy sage for topping (optional)

      Add the gravy and milk to a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Add a pinch of nutmeg.  Remove from the heat and stir in 6 ounces of shredded gruyere cheese and the parmesan cheese, stir until melted and smooth.
      Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the 2 bottom halves of the croissants on a baking sheet or baking dish and spread with 1 tablespoon mustard over each. Top with a thin layer of roasted brussels sprouts (or whatever veggies you have) and then spread on a layer of mashed potatoes.  Drizzle the cheese sauce over the mashed potatoes.  Top with turkey, cranberry sauce and then 2 slices crispy prosciutto each.  Add the top halve of the croissant and gently push down.  Drizzle the top of the bread with more cheese sauce and then add the remaining Gruy√®re. Bake until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, about 3–4 minutes.
       Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.  Place an egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot with fresh salt + pepper.  If there is any cheese sauce leftover, drizzle that overtop as well.  This oooey gooey treat will get everywhere including your mouth;  enjoy.  Grab your forks and knives!

"I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage"  

Erma Bombeck

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Leftover Turkey Ideas: Turkey Green Chile Enchiladas

      Here is another idea for what you can do with your leftover turkey, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Everybody has a zillion more TetraziniGoulashTurkeyAlaKing recipes kicking around, but here is one that adds a little zing.  I love the fact that it still incorporates some of the same gravy, cranberry, and squash ingredients.  This is an easy meal in the RV on the road as well.  We usually freeze our leftover shredded turkey within a day of the BIG MEAL.  You can only eat so much at a time.  I like to keep it as low fat as possible using corn tortillas, but sometimes finding the larger tortillas in white corn can be a challenge.

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups peeled + cubed butternut squash
 • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
 • 1 teaspoon cumin
 • 1 teaspoon ground sage
 • 10 ounce can Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
 • 5 ounce can Fire Roasted Diced Green Chiles
 • ½ cup milk
 • 1-2 cups shredded turkey
 • 1/3 cup dried cranberries optional
 • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded (I like mild cheddar)
 • 4 ounces smoked gouda cheese shredded (Monterey Jack works well too)
 • 10 ounce can Red Enchilada Sauce
 • 8-10 flour or corn tortillas
 • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

• 1 cup leftover cranberry sauce
 • 1/3 cup fresh pineapple chopped
 • 1 jalapeno seeded + chopped
 • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
 • juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Set a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and butternut squash, cook for 8-10 minutes or until the butternut squash is just fork tender.  Add the chipotle chile powder, cumin and sage.  Continue to cook about 1-2 minutes and then slowly stir in the green chile enchilada sauce, diced green chilies and milk.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce is warmed through.  Remove from the heat and stir in the turkey, cranberries (if using) and half of the shredded cheese.  Lightly grease a 9x13 inch-baking dish.  Pour half of the red enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.
      Working with one tortilla at a time, lay them flat on your work surface and spoon about 1/3 cup of the turkey mixture into each tortilla.  Roll them up and place the enchiladas in the prepared pan with seam side down.  Top with remaining red enchilada sauce and cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey.  Plate and serve the enchiladas with the cranberry salsa or your choice.
"If you want to save a species simply decide to eat it.  Then it will be chickens, like turkeys, like Canadian geese" 
Ted Nugent

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

Monday, December 31, 2018

On the Road Holiday Cuisine

      We did finally get on the road this winter; still very much enjoying our holiday celebration and meals.  Christmas was spent in Monroe, MI although it was a warm, comfortable family celebration.  Our holiday traditions suffer nothing as we travel.  We are pretty solid in our family traditions for Thanksgiving, but Christmas can take various avenues.  We vary from ham to goose to lamb and even to turkey again, but this year we chose ham. This recipe is quite simple considering there are only two of us in an RV.  This crockpot beauty takes just four ingredients:  maple syrup, Dijon mustard, allspice, and brown sugar.  I like to add a ham too.  We usually select a ham no more than 5 pounds as we have a 2 quart crockpot and this suffices plenty.  It only takes about 4 hours on low to finish.  Any recipe in a crockpot is so divinely simple and allows much more time for other side dishes and desert.
      I served this with Cornbread Casserole, Deviled Eggs, Hawaiian Rolls, Ham Salad Stuffed Endive,  and of course pie.  This year we enjoyed Apple pie w/ice cream.  A special 'shout out' to Yoki Artress.   This is your mom's recipe for Cornbread Casserole which we both love so much, but promise not to share.  Merry Christmas.
      A week later we were camped at Lake Thunderbird in Oklahoma.  I always try to honor Barb's family tradition at least once a year with Black Eyed Peas w/ham hocks and trimmings. I prepare this recipe in a large enameled stock pot over the stove as it takes about half a day to cook.  There are many recipes for Black Eyed Peas.  I follow the one I was given by Barb's mom years ago.
      Soak dried beans overnight; drain and pick out chaff.  Cover with 3-4 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to boil till peas are nearly tender, then reduce to simmer.  Add 1 chopped carrot and 2 chopped stalks of celery.  Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder; salt and pepper to taste.  I like to add a bay leaf.   Just add a ham hock (or two) and some spare ham chunks and voile'.  Simmer for 3 or more hours. In addition I served cornbread, and pecan pie for desert.  Our special tradition twist is to put a dime in the pot of peas n ham as it cooks.  Whoever finds it in their bowl at dinner will enjoy GOOD LUCK for the next year.  
      Another wonderful holiday for our family.  We will be stocking our freezers here with many more treasures such as gator, sausage, boudin, chorizo, and roux at this stop.  Next week we'll be heading southwest to spend some long overdue time with our grandson in Marlow, OK.  Even more goodies (and some love) for the freezer there.  

"What is Christmas.  It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future."
Agnes M. Pahro

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi


Friday, December 21, 2018

We'll Be Baaaack

      Well, Barb and I have been here in Monroe, MI for the past 9 weeks now.  We have run the gamut through University of Michigan Medicine (no help) and the Veterans Administration Health System.  I have to admit that the VA has been very thorough and efficient even though the appointments are so damned difficult to get.  We waited here for 4 weeks just for the first consult.
      Our VA doctor was incredibly competent and forward thinking,  scheduling Barb for a Endoscopy within 3 days, knowing he would be the one performing it;  he fit it into his schedule.  He wanted to follow it up with an MRI as soon as possible, knowing Barb's situation.  The initial prognosis suggested a possible fistula leak in Barb's stomach as well as a thickening of the small intestinal wall where the stomach joins.  However, our appointment on December 3rd yielded different results.
     Barb has a huge ulcer where her stomach joins the small intestine.  They gave her several meds and scheduled a re-eval for March.  There is still the matter of the MRI which is needed to view another spot on the small intestine they couldn't get to today.  Surgery is still not out of the question.  The hardest part will be quitting smoking.  The doctor insists on it as do I.  She has been trying for years, but to no avail.  It is time.  I am hoping time will settle her down to see the logic and health of it.  The best part of our day was arriving at 9:45 for a 10:00 appointment and finding out the doctor was waiting to take Barb in first.  Finally the chips landed our way.
     The next couple of weeks had their share of ups and downs.  Barb has been able (so far) to quit smoking, but it hasn't been easy.  I'm sure it never is.  The meds have significantly helped her pain.  It isn't nearly as severe as it once was.  Unfortunately, after waiting for another 10 days we were informed there were no MRI appointments available for at least 6-8 weeks. So, we rescheduled her next Endoscopy for March 25th with the MRI the 26th and follow up shortly after.  We decided to pack up and head south for at least the near future.  It will be a short tour this year, visiting our grandson, Barb's family, and some friends with a week or two to ourselves.
      Although we were here far longer than expected we made the best of it and Harbortown RV Park was a great help.  It is the ONLY RV PARK IN MICHIGAN OPEN YEAR ROUND.  This was never a matter of choice.  We got the winter monthly rate at $675 although it included us paying our own electricity.  We ran space heaters as well as propane, but Super Lite RVs have marginal  insulation and as such we used quite a bit of both.  They do have very nice laundry facilities.  The staff was very helpful and friendly throughout.  Masserant's Feed Store just up the road 2 miles had the cheapest propane at just over $19 for a RV 30 pound bottle.  Diesel ran $3.05 throughout our stay.  We made our reservations here as well for our return in 3 months.  There are plenty of other RV parks, but they do not open till April.  
      Monroe has nearly all the amenities of any community with all the stores, etc. you might desire. It is also the boyhood home of George Armstrong Custer and La Z Boy World Headquarters.  We dined locally at several places including Panera Bread, Pete's Garage, and Harbor Inn & Ale.  I developed a love for Jimmy Johns Big Italian Sandwich.  We both loved Jet's Pizza and the breakfasts at R Diner were the best we've ever had for the money.  I have blog posts for several others.  They were all delicious.  Tony Packo's Hungarian Hot Dogs in Toledo is well worth the trip.  
      I got a bit of work done on my next book, most notably the Detroit Chapter.  It is nearly wrapped up.  We also visited Cabelas and Duluth Trading Company;  we dropped good coin at both.  This was a winter visit out of necessity, but the area has quite a bit to offer as well as easy proximity and commute to both Detroit, Toledo, and Cedar Point.  There is lots of beach here to enjoy during the summer months.
      I prepared many meals among which were Beef Oxtail Stew, Rosemary Garlic Crockpot Chicken, Creole Tasso Rabbit and Grits, Kung Pao Chicken, Hatch Tortilla Steak Crunch Bombs, and German Sausage Bean Stew to name a few.  I do love to cook.  It makes even the most uncomfortable situation comfortable.  Barb always felt the love from both me and the furbabies.  Roux even got a visit to the groomer's to clean up all her CHAFF and thin her out before winter.

Pitkin County Pork Steaks
Kung Pao Chicken
Ungarische Bohnenkasserole

Creole Tasso Rabbit w/Spinach n Grits

      Some will say that we should have never traveled nor stayed here this long.  We always head south this time of year and these circumstances only required us to modify our itinerary.  There is a definite weather window where we live and we didn't want to try and travel back and forth here as well as eventually get underway for the winter.  It has never been an ideal situation.  It is what it is. We're still together, loving life, and saving money.  This winter it has always been our original plan.
      On Thursday our anchor's up and sail will be set; on our way once again.  We head southwest towards Oklahoma and our grandson.  Obviously our itinerary has become truncated, but we head out in search of the best in  life.  When you're retired, it's all good.  Joie de Vivre.  WE SEND OUR BEST WISHES AND PRAYERS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS IN ALASKA DURING THIS TIME.  WE LOOK FORWARD TO VISITING WITH YOU ONCE AGAIN NEXT SUMMER.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE.

"America's doctors, nurses, and medical researchers are the best in the world, but our health care system is broken"
Mike Ferguson

WiFi courtesy of Harbortown RV Park 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Basque Oxtail Stew in Brown Gravy

      Another meal from our 4+ week adventure to SE Michigan awaiting medical clearance to head further south.  We discovered Basque Cuisine several years ago during our visit to Northern Nevada and loved it.  These people have lived for many years on the NW border between Spain and France.  They have survived years of conflict regardless of their neutral farming status.  The Germans even used them as target practice for their bombers in WW2.  As such, their cuisine is very meat and potatoes, lots of lamb, pork, veal, rabbit, and gravy.  This will be my 3rd time making this recipe and it blends itself well with the RV crockpot if you wish.
      First of all, beef oxtails can be tricky to find, but asking your local butcher or supermarket meat guy usually gets results. They are meaty joints from the beef tail that are very tasty.  Roasting them beforehand really brings out the flavor.  Obviously the Basque waste nothing.  This recipe is modified for us.

2 pounds meaty oxtails
cayenne, salt, and black pepper as needed
1/2 onion diced
3 garlic cloves diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1 tomato, diced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
1 tablespoon beef base or 1 cup beef broth

      Line a roasting pan with foil.  Rinse the oxtails with water and place them in the pan in the oven.  Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and salt.  Roast at 450 for 1 hour, turning occasionally to brown, not burn.  Remove tails from oven and set aside to drain off all oils.

      Combine the onion, garlic, and oil in a food processor....process till finely chopped or you can simply chop them if you like it chunkier.  Saute' in stockpot over medium heat till translucent.  Add flour and whisk for 30 seconds.  Add 4 1/2 cups water and whisk till dissolved. Add tomatoes, Kitchen Bouquet, and beef base or broth.  Add oxtails and carrots.  Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and cover.
Simmer in stockpot at low for 2 1/2 hours,  Meat should come off the bone easily when done.  If you desire it thicker or added too much water, thicken with Corn Starch.  You can even put it over rice or taters if you like.  Serve hot with biscuits.

"The priest's pot is small, but tasty"
Basque Proverb
WiFi courtesy of Harbortown RV Park 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Turning Your Sails Into the Wind: Adjusting Our Tact

      It was a hell of a summer with all of our projects.  We completed them despite numerous pitfalls and landmines.  Near the end came some inevitable issues regarding both Barb's and my health.  This is not a blog post of blame, but merely a published realization of what happens at our age.
       For me it was simpler; a matter of my dental bridge installed in 2002 needed replaced.  This required two appointments several weeks apart.  This time they did remove the tooth stub anchors  (that had been root canaled) and replaced them with screws into the jaw line.  4 Adavan 90 minutes prior to the procedure and the subsequent Novocain injections gave me exactly what I needed...…..a lack of pain recognition, or any recognition for that matter.  Dr. Soenen and the folks at Birch Street Dental do excellent work and I have always appreciated their results.  Also, I needed to adjust the prescription for the inhaler for my COPD.
      Barb's history has been more involved.  Shortly after my departure to Washington in late July she made an appointment for pain in her lower left side.  These procedures were accomplished at Au Sable Medical in Grayling due to the unavailability of appointments at Traverse City Munson, Gaylord, or Cadillac.  After several procedures this was diagnosed as a golf ball sized kidney cyst.  They gave her pain medication which helped most days, but not all.

      I returned home the 24th of September happy to be with my family again and able to help Barb through this.  Unfortunately several evenings later Barb experienced a heart attack.  She spent several days in Traverse City at Munson Hospital under excellent care.  She underwent a Chemical Stress Test (where she experienced another arrest) as well as a Heart Catheterization and Angio-plasty where they found very little blockage to define what had happened.  She was released two days later where she recuperated at home.  It took her about 10 days to get back to 'nearly normal'. LOTS and LOTS of sleep.
      However, her cyst pain remained.  They determined the cyst might be aspirated (rather than removed).  This involves draining and backfilling the cyst with alcohol to dissolve it.  Finally she heard from AuSable Medical where they informed her they had referred their recommendations to Munson Medical in Traverse City.  Unfortunately, Munson TC declined to perform the surgery due to the cysts location on the kidney, but in too close proximity to the spleen and bladder.  The next referral was to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.  We decided to take a more aggressive approach to this.  We became 'patient advocates' where we got answers or demanded them in order to proceed.  3 days later we were informed they would need VA approval in order to perform the surgery.  However, it took us only one day to get the VA approval, forward it to Au Sable and then hound them to forward it to UM.  The final phone call came soon after.
University of Michigan Medical Center
      Unfortunately when the call came it was to schedule Barb for a pre-surgery consult on October 31st.  Surgery would come after.  We were running out of 'weather window' so we packed up the RV and winterized our house in order to depart.  We traveled south to Ann Arbor. Nearly all the campgrounds in this area are only open till the end of October, but we did discover two campgrounds open year around in Monroe, about 35 miles to the SE.  This is farther than we wanted to commute and more than we wanted to pay, but we didn't have much choice this time of year.  Averaging 12.9 mpg on the trip down we set up camp at Harbortown RV Resort.  Full hookups with cable, golf, indoor and outdoor pool, clubhouse, laundry etc. for a pricey $56/day.   A very nice park.  It did, however rain and snow mix most of the time we were here.  Later on when we switched over to the monthly rate it became $675/month.  There are nice laundry facilities here, but they are a bit on the expensive side so we do ours in town.
      We did drive over 2 days early just to test the route and see where we needed to be.  We test drove the route from the campground to UM 2 days early.  Regardless, we came back to camp and made our reservations in the long term loop for November.  Again, a lack of choices, but at least we had a home while we waited.  Her surgery consult appointment on Halloween did not go well.  The Urologist did not think the Cyst on her Kidney was big enough or in the right place to cause pain.  Aspiration of the cyst was a simple outpatient procedure.  However, when he palpated Barb's lower left front she screamed.  He referred us to the Main UM Medical Center Emergency Room. 

Harbortown RV Resort

      We spent 6 hours at the UM Emergency Room to no avail.  Blood Work, Urine, and another CAT Scan turned up nothing.  All internal organs are fine and there is no evidence of Diverticulitis or other Colon Issues.  No fever, no temperature, no infection...….just pain.  They simply updated her pains meds (which didn't make me too happy) and sent us on our way.  So we were forced to regroup again and contact the VA.  We are still awaiting notification for Barb's Gastroenterologist appointment.
      While we waited even longer we spent a bit of time exploring the area when Barb was up to it.  We got to visit the Shipshewana on the Road at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.  We fought out way through hundreds of folks so Barb could buy a new Alpaca sweater and some Amish beef sticks.  We  also checked out the River Raisin Nat'l Battlefield and Sterling State Park on Lake Erie as well.  We endured some pretty cold days/nights while we were here, with about 10 nights being off the grid from RV water and running our tank heaters.    
      While camped here I prepared some tasty meals, among many other things to include: Seafood Gumbo, Beef Pasty/gravy, Hidden Valley Ranch Crockpot Pork Steaks, Miso Soup, Tabasco Smokin' Firehouse Ribs, Clam Chowder, Taco Night, and Wild Boar Meatloaf.  After awhile it became evident that we would be here long enough to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal here as well.  We found the perfect small 'bird' and enjoyed Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Cranberries, and Deviled Eggs.  Small feasts on the road, but plenty of leftovers!  

Beef Pasties w/gravy and Steamed Cauliflower
Tabasco Smokin' Firehouse Ribs w/corn n tater salad

Wild Boar Meatloaf

Pigs in a Blanket with Brie Cheese

      So for now we are STILL here in Monroe awaiting further word.  We did plan on a shorter travel circle this winter to save money, but this is ridiculous.  It has been 17 days since Barb was first seen at UM.  The VA office in Traverse City has been very supportive and going out of their way for Barb, but the referral process into the larger VA MACHINE is another matter.  So that's it for now.  Unfortunately, we experienced  our first truck malfunction  since our warranty expired back in February.  The throttle body digital fuel injector controller failed and the part had to be ordered which put us behind one day leaving home at the beginning.  Cost? Eight million dollars.  Did you really think I was going to tell you?  During this stop I did upgrade the RV factory onboard battery with a new Trojan Deep Cycle with better amp hours.  It is getting colder these days, but the park has winterized, insulated, heated utility pedestals so we're staying warm.  You do go through a bit of propane during this type of camping, but that is one item here that is relatively cheap.  We cross our fingers and pray that it won't be much longer, but if need be...….it is what it is.  For now we'll just hunker down, enjoy Thanksgiving, and wait on that phone call.  Hey, we're saving money.  We just need to get Barb healthy.

"I am not young enough to know everything" 
Oscar Wilde
WiFi courtesy of Harbortown RV Resort MiFi