Fire {cooking} {BBQ} Works

There are 50/50 odds that you will be either in the backyard barbequing or in the woods camping for the Fourth of July celebration. We’ve chosen an easy and satisfying menu for creating your own mouth-watering fireworks on a skewer!

I was camping with friends in Glacier National Park in NW Montana. Such a stunning setting that encourages first-class dining, even over a campfire and picnic table!

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Kabobs are always a tasty and pleasing meal idea. The key is choosing ingredients, which will cook for approximately the same length of time, and that list is virtually endless. Use fresh, in-season and family favorite vegetables and fruits.

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When using meat (steak, chicken, sausage) on my kabobs, I will always use a pre-cooked variety so it will char and heat the same as my vegetables. Marinating your meat for an hour or so before cooking gives you a tastier flavor. Cut the meat into approximate 1” long pieces.

If you’re cooking over a campfire, make sure you’ve got your fire going at least an hour before you need to cook, to utilize those red-hot coals. Grilling over a hot, low-flame fire is a must to keep your kabob from burning.

Start by preparing your vegetables in advance so you’ll have a quick and easy time of skewering your kabobs. Wash and cut into approx 1” size. If you will be using wooden skewers, be sure you soak these in water for at least an hour before placing them on the hot grill.

Skewer your ingredients, but don’t squeeze together too tightly because you want all sides to be exposed to the heat. Some people like to use one ingredient per skewer, which does allow you to cook specific to that food. (I.e. a skewer of peppers, a skewer of meat)

Here I’ve used cooked, spiced polish sausages, green bell peppers, sweet onions, fresh pineapple chunks, and small button mushrooms. Alternating each piece on a skewer, I placed on the grill without any seasoning. I rotate each skewer four times for good equal time grilling.

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During the last minute or so of grilling, I like to drizzle a sauce, such as my mango-jalapeño salsa, down each skewer. (I also place a bowl of the sauce on the table for anyone who wants more)

Using a hot pad, carefully remove each skewer to a baking pan or platter before serving. This allows the hot ends to start cooling down before they come near your guest’s fingers or mouths. It’s always dramatic to serve the kabobs while still skewered, but you can opt to remove the contents into a serving bowl too. Use the tongs of a fork to easily remove the cooked food from the skewer by sliding the fork down the kabob.

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Of course you’ll want some yummy side dishes to round out your menu! Watermelon is always appropriate! I’ve done some camping tradition foil packets of coal-baked potatoes to accompany my kabobs. Using Yukon Gold potatoes, I’ve washed and cut them in fourths. On a heavy 12” square of tin foil, I place the cut potato with some cut onion pieces, then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkled with some salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary sprigs, I wrap the foil tightly and carefully place down in the ash and coals of my fire pit. (Be sure to use long BBQ tongs and a hot pad glove to avoid burning yourself) Make one foil packet of potatoes for each guest.

These need to cook while you’re making your skewers. (Approximately 15 minutes on each side) Remove with great care as not to puncture the foil or have the packet unwrap in the process. Place on a platter and serve immediately.

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Nicely seasoned, beautiful to look at, and ever so satisfying this is true fire cooked, BBQ works at its finest!

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It’s Springtime in the Rockies

Winter in Montana can be long and gray. Really gray.

Even though we’re surrounded by “evergreen” trees, with snow-turned-to-ice covering them, they too become just another shade of gray. Don’t get me wrong, there is great beauty in snow and ice. But after 6 months of it, the soul longs for green. Green means life, and life is all about, life.

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Sunrise is often a short glimpse of color on the far horizon, and reflected off water and snow. But the heavy clouds soon swallow up the sun’s rays  and we’re back to gray again.

 

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I love to visit nature in every season, searching for revealing signs of change. In the Springtime, it is particularly gratifying to find those occasional blades of green grass coming up through the matted forest floor. Or the green on the tip of a tree branch, showing new growth in preparation for budding. These are a few finds that put a smile on my face. I know that no matter how cold, or long our winter may linger, the force of spring is operational.

 

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Snow squalls, rain, ice, fog, and frost will all continue into May. But on the days of reprieve, we’ll bask in the warmth of the sun, squeal with delight to find the tulips and daffodils green shoots pushing up through the gray earth, and start making plans to indulge the changing season.

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Winter Interlude

The other night I drove home through freshly fallen snow with the full moon reflecting and bouncing light shadows off the snow banks along the roadside. My thoughts took me back to college days of moon lit cross-country ski trips into the backcountry of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness here in Montana.

The snow was so cold it crunched with each slide of our feet across the frozen ground. The only other sounds were of our own breathing as we strained arms, legs, and lungs against the nap of nature’s carpeted pathway.

 

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Snow covered fields along the riverbanks as day turns to night across this Montana landscape

Trees cast long shadows across the trail with eerie forms of snow-laden branches requiring a check to our imaginations lest we tense up in fear at the wild things hiding in the woods. We were insignificant in our feeble attempt to gain safety through numbers.

Miles into the wilderness, removing our ski’s we would gather dead limbs from trees, and protected needles scooped out from under large tree roots, to start a campfire. The moonlit landscape so peaceful and still. The soon crackling of the wood burning. The cheerful conversation of friends warming hands and sipping hot toddies as the clocks we left behind pushed on.

I’m so grateful for memories and the easy path, when allowed, to re-capture the sights, sounds, and feelings of past experiences, of youthful adventures.

 

Out on the Town – Zootown

It’s birthday night out with my favorite (and only) son!

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James Bar, Downtown Missoula, Montana

Wonderful service, best-steak-ever!, excellent company, and a dessert birthday gift from the management!

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Culinary arts satisfied, we head over to the Top Hat Lounge where there’s usually a great band on a Friday night, hoping to work off a few of the newly added calories.

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Mellow Cello at the Top Hat was too solemn for a happy time so we dashed across the street to Montgomery Distillery.

Great atmosphere, great service, and the healthiest cocktails in town! I started off with the one at the top of the list and wasn’t disappointed! Springtime explosion in my mouth! So refreshingly cool and crisp!

I love having my birthday in January because they’re always an amazing time! Nothing like starting the year off with a great celebration to lead the way for the remaining 11 months.

Travel Outside Your Front Door

I survived the big Montana storm of 11/18/15!

Being raised to be a good Girl Scout (‘Be Prepared’) … oh wait, that’s Boy Scout … oh well, being a good Scout I spent some time ensuring that I was prepared when the dire storm warnings came, when my internet friends to the West started posting photos and alarms of their experiences, and just because it gave me peace to know that in the face of adversity, I was ready and able to face the storm head on, without fear.

I added a few more bungee cords to the tarp covering my vintage camping trailer, took inside the more delicate autumn wreaths and decor pieces off the porch, added a few pans of water to my collection of  emergency water, and baked some chocolate chip cookies to sustain me if there was no power to cook meals.

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I turned my white noise fan to its highest position before going to bed, to mask over the sound of the wind and emergency sirens along the nearby highway and quickly fell asleep.

1:21 AM, in the middle of RAM sleep, I woke with a startle because the power went off, flickered, came on, and went off again. The absence of fan noise combined with the beeps of a few electronics, and even more so, the sounds of the giant storm raging against my 100 year old house.

Lunging from the bed, I slipped into my  emergency wardrobe diligently laid out before retiring. This included fleece lined, comfortable and very warm Hot Chili yoga pants, and a long-sleeved natural fiber insulated top. With the power off and freezing temps outdoors, I knew I needed to dress quickly in the nighttime 64 degrees of my home, rather than wait until after the already cold temp plummeted down. Hilary’s 1953 ascent of Mount Everest movie, which I’d just watched, was still fresh in my memory  making the air feel more like -75.

Bundled up and fearless against the wolves, mountain lions, and possible wide-awake bears who had not yet hibernated,  I grabbed my at-hand flashlight and carefully opened the outside door to inspect my property–taking great precaution (as warned by authorities to do, in the preparedness news of yesterday) to keep a strong hand on the door to ensure it was not ripped out of my grasp, causing it to slam against my extremities in the hurricane force winds, causing possible crushing of bone or loss of limb.

Managing that successfully, I stepped out into the void. (I shall name my movie ‘Into the Dark’ once a Producer buys the rights to this story) I braced myself in hopes that my camping trailer or one of the many tall Ponderosa Pines trees decorating my property were not going to come smashing into me as I flashed my feeble light around the immediate area. It was worst than I imagined. No, I was not hit by any large missile, nor attacked by any angry, wild animal. But my wood harvest plaque reading ‘Pumpkins, Apple Cider, For Sale Here’ that I had purchased at the thrift store around Easter time last year, was missing off my porch. I was heart-sick. Forging forward against the storm, I surveyed the area between myself and the detached garage (it was detached before the storm, so no alarm needed).

A tangled mess of destruction lay in front of me. A downed tree, a sturdy post lay on its side, my missing Harvest sign laying upside down in the dirt.  If it was this bad so near to the house, one could only imagine what lay beyond the beam of my flashlight. A quick glance around showed my trailers, the car, along with the big trees in the yard, were all unscathed. What a relief! But then I saw it. There was a dark bulk behind the car that was not normal. I approached this huddling mass carefully lest it be a wounded Grizzly bear laying in agony, having been blown through the air and laying paralyzed after hitting my Subaru. Thank God, it was not as bad as all that, but I was surprised to find a large, heavy rattan armed chair instead. Just hours before it and its mate were solidly standing on the covered porch. Now here it was, a good 30′ away, having passed by smaller, lighter weight objects on its journey to the driveway. No time to sleuth or deduce, I struggled to retrieve it, keep the light aimed to my path, and trying to block out the terrorizing wind screams, I struggled with the chair to the door, and beyond into my living room. The winds raced through the open door, rattling old windows, and reducing the meager heat remaining in my already cold, black house. I managed to get through the door again, without loss of limb.

The responsibility I felt for homeownership survey in the early morning hours weighed heavily on my shoulders as I climbed back into my still warm bed, to wait out the storm. Me against the brute force of a winter storm front. Perhaps my courage would be restored if I could manage some rest.

Within minutes of laying in the agony of desperately wanting to go to sleep, but unable to with my rapid heart beat, depleted oxygen, higher blood pressure, and the thin window panes alone standing between me and The Dark, the fan came on, the beeps returned, and I once more lunged out of bed to prepare for what was possibly a very short opportunity given to me by Heaven, to make me some coffee.

As the coffee brewed, I managed to get the inside heat back up to 70 degrees. Thank God the refrigerated foods had not perished in the 20 minutes of power outage. I plugged in my phone to optimize as much battery life as possible. I munched on a rationed cookie as I tried to quell my nerves and reflected on the events of the past 20 minutes. What could I have done better? What could I learn from this experience to avoid the losses next time — or were the odds of me being able to control the unknown completely beyond my ability? And the howling winds continued outside reminding me that I was facing Into The Dark, part II as the clock approached 2:15 am.

After waiting restlessly for another 15 minutes without a repeated loss of power, I again retreated to my bed and exhausted, fell immediately asleep.

Morning light was streaming through unbroken windows. Turning my white noise machine off, I strained to hear the storm, but there was nothing. Since I was still dressed from last nights harrowing escape, quite hot I might add since I was dressed for outside winter temps, not indoor 70 degrees under bedcovers, I put on my coat and stepped outside to survey the storm damage of the morning after.

Nothing new to report except it appears that the remainder of the night, my preparedness had paid off as there was nothing out of place. With a steaming hot cup of coffee and another rationed cookie in hand, I walked the length and breadth of my land to find the stillness mocking me, as if last nights horror had never happened. Not even a pine needle dared to fall. There was no wind. The storm of 11/18/15 had been mastered.

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