Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Palo Duro

     We left the fields and birds of NW Oklahoma behind and headed just south of Amarillo, TX to Palo Duro State Park.  Suggested to us by a good friend, we wanted to check out the "Grand Canyon of Texas".  We booked our reservations online via the Texas State Park system for a week in the Sagebrush Camping area.   This is a large park with several areas available depending on your activities.  For us this was a week of rest for Roux, exploration, photography, and campfires with good food.  https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/palo-duro-canyon

   
      We used some of the discount available on our Texas State Parks card so the total for our 8 days was $164.  We camped at the Sagebrush Camping area as you enter the canyon.  There weren’t that many units throughout the park, so we had our choice.  We chose a beautiful back-in spot that was bordered on each side by cedars offering decent privacy.  There is NO cell signal or internet capability down in the canyon, but you can get online on top at the Visitors Center or once you travel to town.  There are heated bathroom/free showers and covered picnic tables for each site.  There are fire pits, but there was a burn ban during our visit.  There are 3 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs with elec/water hookups.  There are several others for tent campers, and youth groups as well.  The park also offers a very good Visitors Center with museum, horseback riding stables, and a Trading Post featuring gifts and a full service snack bar. 

Palo Duro Sagebrush Camp
      We spent the first few days on our own heated tank water supply as the night time temps dipped well into the low 20s.  We did not have a heated hose so we did not hook up to their water spigots till temps warmed.  Being in a deep canyon, the temperatures are noticeably cooler than at the top.  It is 16 miles into the nearest town of Canyon, TX for any type of supplies or laundry.  Unfortunately, Barb and I both had whopper colds the first day or two our stay which also pretty much occupied our time.
Fortress Wall
      This is one of the more popular parks in Texas, famous for it’s beauty.  There are miles of trails for both hikers and mountain bikers to explore.  The area abounds with deer, Aoudad Sheep, coyote, cougar, bobcats, turkey, rabbits, feral pigs, as well as a variety of snakes and raptors.  Thankfully, no rattlesnakes this time of year.  We even managed to get in a day or two of Geocaching as the park contains nearly 2 dozen caches. 
     Although Barb never really got well, we explored the park for the better part of 5 days taking in as much beauty as we could.  I even got some B & W work done.  It was cool to cold during our stay, but we have no complaints; they had several inches of snow south of us.  Our progressively aging bodies walked several trails, but made sure to eat well every night.  We dined on Rockfish w/Chutney and Salad, Skillet Spaghetti & Garlic Bread, Spicy Chorizo Egg Cheese Sandwiches, and Clam Strips & FF to name a few. 
Clam Strips FF & Coleslaw
Spicy Chorizo Egg Cheese Sandwich
Skillet Spaghetti w/Cudighi and Garlic Bread

      It is a beautiful park, well maintained and pristine.  The various colors and shades of limestone cliffs, walls, hoodoos, and erosions were pretty as any we have seen throughout the southwest.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  It didn’t hurt that there weren’t that many people visiting when we did.  Although much cooler, we love the off season.  Off to San Antonio from here.  Two days drive with an overnight boondock in Abilene to begin our Christmas vacation on the Riverwalk this year.  
"To awaken alone in a strange town is one 
of the pleasantest sensations in the world"
Freya Start


WiFi courtesy of Texas State Parks




Monday, December 4, 2017

Lord of the Ringnecks.....Return of Roux


Photo courtesy of Oklahoma DWC
   Once again we visit the vast fields and high plains that is the Oklahoma Panhandle. This year rather than camping at the Optima WMA we set up camp at the Optima NWR which is only a couple of miles SE sitting much higher than the surrounding countryside.  Also FREE CAMPING.  Although still Federal Land, this area has been abandoned due to lack of funding for 25+ years now.  The paved camping areas are still there, but a bit overgrown in places.  Due to the dryness this time of year there are no open fires allowed.  
      We watered up at the Balko Truckstop enroute and set up the portable solar panels as well as jumpered to the battery bank while in camp. Generator was gassed up should we need a battery bank top off at night.  We also had the 5.56mm Coyote Deterrent in case we got uninvited company.  There had also been reports of large bobcats in the area lately.  Boondocking 5 days for bird hunting........PERFECT!

      This put us in range of our hunting the fields around Hooker, Adams, Hardesty, and Guymon.  The nearest propane fill is Guymon, 20 miles to the west, although diesel was available 5 miles away at Hardesty at a fair $2.55.   Much like last year we planned on hunting with our friend, Darryl.  We were in for a surprise as Darryl and his wife had been transferred by Phillips Conoco Petroleum to Carlsbad, NM.  We did meet his son, Seth and he was very happy to once again show us around.  They really appreciated our Thank You card from last year and the Christmas cards, but LOVED the Reindeer Sausage we sent the family.  His primary focus was on deer, but there were plenty of pheasant to be had as well, and if the quail population is anything like last year.........WOW.  Hoping for similar results for all of us this year.  This year we were treated to downright balmy weather with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s.  

Really Roux, this is where you give the bird to Daddy

      Once again Barb played 'handler' for Roux keeping a leash handy if she tried to chase birds.  I had my trusty Browning Citori O/U outfitted with modified over full chokes and loaded with #6 for ringnecks.  We decided to hunt ONLY pheasant this trip so quail would not be a factor.  Most days we hunted just early mornings and late afternoons.  The birds were always enroute to or from feeding then.    
      The first two days resulted in a single bird.  We did see about 33 birds, but Roux wasn't scenting them and the distant flushes didn't help.  Roux was so very much better on Day 2.  I think the bird I shot on Day 1 really clued her nose in finally.  She worked hard and found the birds twice, but was unable to get 'locked up' due to them flushing at 30+ yards.  That didn't stop me from shooting anyways.  Over the first 2 days I was a sad 1 for 5.  But, Roux was showing improvement.  Day 3 turned the tables for us.  We had talked to a few local farmers and the game biologist on Day 2 and they said the bird population was slim due to heavy spring storms and hail damage.  Still, we had been finding enough to try and shoot.  We had been finding birds in cover fields and fence rows of thick tumbleweeds next to cut Milo fields.  We also had been lucky enough to be able to work a section of CRP land relatively undisturbed by other hunters.  It was a pretty windy day and Roux did her job and even though we still get a solid point, the birds held better.  I think I finally got somewhat dialed in.  We picked up 3 birds in the morning and decided to take the afternoon off.  I was 2 for 5 on day 3.  On day 4 Roux worked very well again and I managed to pick up one more bird close to camp in the morning.  Our afternoon was spent refilling propane and a Wal Mart run in Guymon.  Seth now returns to finish the packing of the house prior to his and grandma's departure to SE New Mexico.  I made sure to get their new address as we plan on visiting them again one day.  Good folks.

Day 3 was our best day with Seth and I nearly limiting out 
     We hunted hard for 4 days to fill our freezer with possession limits before heading out.  Possession limits are the amount of birds you are allowed to have in your possession (even in the freezer) which is twice the daily limit.  That equates to 4 pheasant or 20 quail total.  My shooting hasn't improved, but I managed to carry my part of the load given time.  We had no unwelcome coyote or bobcat visitors in camp.  
      It was another wonderful experience and good time spent with friends.  Unlike other types of hunting, bird hunting is more about comradery, the performance and loyalty of the dog, and the satisfaction of a job well done regardless.  Enjoying some warm camping in good weather ain't bad either.  We dined on a couple days of ham n bean soup and a couple more on clam chowder.
      We had plenty of sun for solar use, but keeping the bank topped off proved more difficult than usual.  I made sure the cells were filled and ran the generator our entire last night in order to top them off.  The suitcase panels worked just fine with the RV onboard battery.  
      Once again we'll be dining on some fine game later this winter and spring.  We point the compass South now, heading to Texas' version of the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro.  Cuddle up and get some rest, Roux.  You've earned it.     

"A hunt based only on the trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be"
                                                                                       Fred Bear
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving

        Leaving Missouri 4 days early we boondocked enroute at the Cherokee Casino at Sallisaw, OK, price $0.  They have a very nice large lot designated just for RV overnights.  After a nights rest and Barb's $51 winnings we headed west, deciding to stop in Oklahoma City for some shopping, etc.  We camped again at the Little Axe CG at Lake Thunderbird State Park. 
     Great sites under the oaks right on the water; with our discounts $80 for 4 nights.  This park does have all the amenities and we could have a fire for the first time since April!  14.5 mpg towing on the way here.  We also got to visit with our son Chad and his new wife for a bit and eat some great Chicken Fried Steak out on Old Highway 66.  
      The one scheduling item we can always count on this time of year is visiting with our grandson in SW Oklahoma.  We try to spend a week or two here each year.  We have always enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of our in-laws during this holiday.  They have always been very gracious during our visits as well as putting out quite the spread during 'Turkey Day'.   Grandpa Ricky can sure roast a turkey as well as a Cook's Ham to perfection and Grandma Frankie is as gracious as any Southern Lady you'll ever meet.
'Downtown' Marlow, OK
     Arriving in Marlow we once again we set up camp at Town n Country RV Park about 2 miles out of town with full hookups at the price of $180/week.  A very nice park with all the amenities to include laundry, WiFi, and trash pickup.  We have stayed here 3 times.  Marlow is a small town, but has a very nice butcher shop and several nice home cookin' cafes.  Even the Marlow Market has some very fine meats.  10 miles down the road is Duncan with all the other amenities anyone could want including my fav Chicken Express chickene.com/ I can get my gizzard fix here, although admittedly they have other delicious chicken dishes as well as tasty catfish.  Marlow offers the best of small town living.   This came in handy as we arrived with a slow leak in one of our tires.  
      Our oldest grandson, Brock is 16 now and we consider ourselves pretty lucky as he loves to visit with us and his passion for old movies, especially SciFi, is very mutual.  Many of our visiting days when he is not shackled with such slavery such as high school include watching movies, comparing criticisms, and just snacking on whatever Grandpa Rich prepares.  This year we brought him the movie 'Shin Godzilla' to kick off our visit.  Brock called it a 'Classic'.  I considered it time well spent.
      We also took Brock to see Bladerunner 2049.  SENSATIONAL FILM!  I was able to find the original 1984 version of Bladerunner on DVD at Vintage Stock, a shop in Oklahoma City that specializes in anything you need to find.  He watched the original first so he could appreciate the strides I story and technology that this movie has accomplished.  I think I finally found something to impress him.
      Thanksgiving this year however was at Brock's other relatives in nearby Chickasha.  Although we were a bit hesitant to intrude, we were once again greeted with open arms;  Southern Hospitality.  What a spread!   Time spent here helps me to realize that the world is still a pretty friendly place with love and fellowship considered normal family values.
What a Thanksgiving spread!
      I did find some time to (finally) get back out with the camera and got a couple more good BW shots.  We also took an afternoon to cruise the country looking for wild hogs which are supposed to be prevalent in the area.  Alas on a 78 degree day none where to be seen.  We spent the last couple of days just visiting and relaxing with folks.  Being here is always a good visit.  In between we dined on Cudighi Cheeseburger Casserole, Fried Rockfish, Greek Shrimp Salad, and a Low Country Boil to name a few.
Yooper Cudighi Cheeseburger Casserole

Low Country Boil
      Not that we didn't dine out.  Rib Crib, Chicken Express, and Smokin' Joes Rib Ranch got a bit of our business as always.  All have excellent food. 
Smokin' Joes Sausage, Hot Links, Okra, and Beans
     We don't get to visit our grandchildren as often as we would like, but who ever does?  We always enjoy these visits and as I said, so does Brock.  We are fortunate to have such warm and friendly in laws.  Of course time always goes too fast, but we makes sure our visits contain as much quality time and love as possible.  From here we head NW towards the Oklahoma Panhandle and the tiny community of Hardesty.  We'll boondock for the first 4 days or so of pheasant season as well as hopefully enjoy Roux's good work.  

"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends"
Shirley MacLaine

WiFi courtesy of Town and Country RV Park

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Creole Camp Food


     Even on the road, camp food is as good as you want it to be.  With Barb helping out her sisters this week I'm left to prepare my own cuisine.  This will be quite wide ranging as it usually is; from blackened rockfish to sushi to Cajun.  Although the weather this time of year can be a bit unpredictable, why should the menu?  My latest example of this is Creole Crawfish Tasso Chowder.  The day I made this was a cold, rainy November day which made this perfect compliment to flakey biscuits and a puppy's cold nose.    
      One of our most valuable culinary tools on the road is our mini 2 quart crock pot.  As long as you are hooked up to shore power this creates some very tasty meals.  I adapted a recipe I found on the  NOLA restaurants recipe website, but you can prepare it in a stockpot on the stove if you like instead.  Technically this is a Creole recipe, but like any true chowder it has it's share of corn and taters.  I like Yukon Golds.  It also adds carrots to the bell pepper/celery/onion mix, much like a true mirepoix.  

      It is always easy to find crawfish on the road.  Wal Mart nearly always carries them in the frozen fish section.  Although not fresh, they are already peeled, ready to use, and not prohibitively expensive. 
      I am fortunate to still have some Tasso from our last trip that will work very well in this dish.  Outside of SE Texas or Louisiana this might be difficult to find.  For the bacon I love to use Wright's Brand Applewood Smoked, delicious.  I also like to buy my bacon at Wal Mart as Wright's Bacon is usually about 40% higher elsewhere.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty much in daily use and not hard to find.  I use an instant roux, but homemade is always the best if you know how to make it.  Remember, Creole cooking makes roux with fat drippings and cream, not flour.  Of course I had to scale down the ingredient portions to fit our pot.

      The best part about my adaptation of this recipe is the crockpot does most of the cooking.....I don't have to pre-parboil the taters; just dice them about 1/2".  I do lightly saute the bacon, veggees, garlic, and Tasso (about 2 minutes).  I use a separate pan; adding the stock, roux and bring to a boil for a minute; just to begin thickening.  Don't overdo it as it should go into the pot a bit soupy.  It'll help meld all the flavors as well as thicken on it's own.  The magic of the crockpot.  
Simmering mirepoix
Ready, set, GO into the crockpot
      Add everything (except the crawfish) to the pot, it'll do the rest.  Heat on low for about 4 hours.  I DO NOT, however, add the crawfish till the last 30 minutes.  When finished serve with garlic baguette or cornbread on the side.  The LSU game is optional.  
Give me a biscuit.....I'll keep your belly warm.

"Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all"  
Harriet Van Horne
WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fiddlers Fish House & Family Restaurant

    
     Here we are on the road again;  Winter 2017 and our first stop is SE Missouri.  This restaurant is located in Dexter.  We have eaten here several times while visiting Barb's family.  If there ever was a Webster's Dictionary For Dining, Fiddlers Fish House sets the standard for Family Style Southern Cooking. They feature an incredible buffet for lunch and dinner as well as 'ala carte' ordering if preferred.  We have always enjoyed their incredible buffet when we dine there, but I hear their prime rib and steaks are wonderful.
     The buffet is well stocked and features either thick, thin fillet, or whole catfish, shrimp, frog legs, clam strips, chicken (fried, BBQ, and gizzards), mac n cheese, meatloaf, roast beef, pork chops, and other daily items.  The sides include hushpuppies, corn on the cob, mashed taters and gravy, sweet taters, beans, green beans, kernel corn, okra, black eye peas, ham & greens, corn bread, biscuits, and many others that vary day to day.  The salad bar is excellent while the dessert bar has, among other items, the best darned peach cobbler you will ever taste.  Price?  Depending on time of day $7.99 to $10.49

     
      Of course what restaurant would be complete without their 'Food Challenge'.  Fiddlers features the Man vs. Fish Challenge.  20 Catfish fillets, a pound of fries, a pound of baked beans, a pound of hush puppies and a pound of coleslaw, as well as a gallon of water make up this challenge.  Eat it all and it's free.  It is featured on Missouri's Top Ten Restaurant Challenges.   www.onlyinyourstate.com/missouri/eating-challenges-mo/
      Ok, down to our visit.  Barb had already committed to work at her sister's house so I took advantage of the lunch buffet.  Behave myself I DID NOT.
Plate #1:  Catfish, frog legs, ff, and coleslaw
Plate #2:  More catfish, chicken, fried green beans n okra, and taters

Yeah baby, warm peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream tops it off
      The food is as good as ever and the hostesses keep your ice tea glass full all the time.  My tab for lunch buffet.......$8.56.  Of course there are literally thousands of Catfish Restaurants throughout the south as well as BBQ, but Fiddlers deserves several BIG THUMBS UP.  I have enjoyed catfish pretty much throughout the country and this is among the best I have ever tasted.  The salad bar and dessert only add to the meal.  DO FINISH WITH THE PEACH COBBLER.  There is NOTHING lacking about a meal enjoyed here.  The food is excellent and as always southern hospitality dictates the service 7 days a week.


"All great change in America begins at the dinner table"
Ronald Reagan

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi 





Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shrimp Feta Salad

Photo courtesy of Epicurious
      My last installment for this fall's @ home cooking/recipe series encompasses the healthier choices.  When I plan our weekly menu about every 6-7 days is 'Salad Night'.  Although we have smaller side salads with some dinners throughout the week, this one night is dedicated.  We have many we like such as Middle Eastern Couscous Salad, Chef Salad, Crab n Cuke Salad, Sumi Salad, or Crab Louie.  This salad is very much Greek with all the ingredients to make it tasty as well.  Your choice of lettuce is just that.  Romaine, Butter Crunch, Arugula, Spinach, or Iceberg; wherever your individual preferences lead you.  Although this salad could be an accompanying salad, I always serve a large one as a main dish.
      Of course the secret is fresh ingredients.  Lettuce should not be bought till the day you plan to use it to prepare this.  Shrimp, however, can be bought earlier.  I have never had a problem with the bagged, precooked shrimp purchased at your local Wal Mart, but fresh shrimp is never a bad thing.  
      You can use whatever size you wish, but for this recipe we used the small shrimp.  PLENTY of shrimp for everybody.  You can buy bigger shrimp, but then you have less meat per person.  Although the recipe can be found at www.lowfatlifestyle.com/salads/saladrecipes/shrimpandfetasalad.htm#.Wd1137pFyM9  this site will also provide many other healthy salad recipes.  

• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar (may use 1/2 teaspoons depending on taste)
• 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
• 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
• 1 pound medium fresh or frozen uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
• 1 - 2 clove garlic, minced, according to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 8 ounces spring mixed spring salad greens
• 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

In a medium bowl combine vinegar, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sugar. Slowly whisk in the 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in medium skillet over medium heat add shrimp, garlic, red pepper flakes and remaining 1/3 tsp salt.  You need only to reheat the shrimp as they are precooked, unless you are using uncooked shrimp.  In addition we add chopped tomatoes, pepperoncini, and capers. 
Combine shrimp with dressing and the greens and toss well to coat. Additionally, we like to add a bit of chopped tomato.  Garnish top of salad with the feta cheese and serve.


      Even though most salads are sometimes viewed as necessary to simply accompany the other food we eat, I am trying to provide recipes that are indeed delicious on their own as well as healthy.  This recipe has it all, whether you serve it on the side or as a main dish.  The combination of flavors from shrimp to the essence of Greek, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and wine enhance any dining experience.  Enjoy.  


"Prince Charles is very relaxed at the table, throwing his salad around will-nilly.  I don't find him stiff at all"
Madonna

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reuben Stuffed Baked Potato


    Barb and I LOVE SAUERKRAUT.   We are definitely a German family.  We have thoroughly enjoyed a recipe we found for Reuben Casserole http://12tomatoes.com/reuben-casserole/ , but when this one surfaced on Facebook we just had to try it.  Being retired and with our schedule we miss growing/curing our own Late Flat Dutch Cabbage and making about 20 quarts of sauerkraut each fall.  Kraut and Sausage, Kraut and Ribs, and Cabbage Melts among a few others are the recipes that we loved on our fall harvest.  Now, we just get it on the road when we can. 

       I have to say we love 'bagged fresh kraut' (always fresher) in the refrigerated section, but canned Frank's Kraut can be a good product.  I love that this recipe is submitted by "The Krautfather".  With the rich list of ingredients it is indeed a 'one dish meal'.  For those that love 'Anything Reuben' you could be approaching the very edge of Nirvana.  When it comes to corned beef FRESH DELI IS ALWAYS THE BEST, but in a pinch a can of this will do.  

www.sauerkrautrecipes.com/recipe/ruben-stuffed-baked-potatoes/  Of course I am posting the recipe which lists everything you need to know, but the link as well will provide access to the other tasty recipes.  This recipe is modified for the two of us.  
Reuben Stuffed Baked Potato
1 or 2 large Russet baking potatoes
1 cup finely cut corned beef
1 cup (your choice) sauerkraut
1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese
3 Tblspn. diced green onions
1 Tbspn horseradish
1 pkg. cream cheese (softened)
3 Tblspn. Parmesan cheese
Paprika 
       Bake Potatoes @ 425 for 60 (+-) minutes or until tender, cool.  In a bowl combine cornbeef, Frank's Kraut, Swiss Cheese, onion, garlic, horseradish.  Either cut both potatoes in half lengthwise or slice a single potato lengthwise and open to accommodate ingredients.  Carefully scooping out potatoes leaving just the skins of the potatoes.  Mash potatoes with cream cheese and stir in the corn beef mixture, then mound potato mixture into the skins of the potatoes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and paprika, return to the oven for 30 more minutes or until heated through.  This very much resembles "Twice Baked Potatoes".  The mix is always much more volume when it is returned and sometimes the final baking eliminates the original baked potato profile.  It will be heaping full when done.

      This recipe will be so very welcome during the fall or winter weather, but for aficionados of cabbage or corned beef it could be anytime.  Just imagine the smells in our RV as we prepare this dish this fall either on the road or in hunting camp.  Joie de Vivre

"When General Lee took possession of Chambersburg on his way to Gettysburg, we happened to be a member of the Committee representing the town. Among the first things he demanded for his army was twenty-five barrels of Saur-Kraut."
Editor, The Guardian (1869)

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