Monday, October 30, 2006

Fall Colors in the Sierra

The fall colors in my little piece of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range aren't as spectacular this year. Colors range from a faded green to light brown as the deciduous trees shed their leaves. The spectacular red and orange hues are missing in the forest as the nights grow colder and shorter.

My hike along Blue Gouge Mine Road was intended to capture images of some of the fall foliage. The old mining road, located just to the south of Mormon Emigrant Road in the Eldorado National Forest, seemed the idea location. It has a nice mixture of conifers and oaks on the north-facing slope of Camp Creek canyon.

Although I snapped some 41 images, the hike turned into an exercise marathon. Blue Gouge Mine Road exists in two segments. The first is paved and is used as the access road to the Fleming Meadow Trail System. The second is a dirt road that heads northeast from the parking lot. A forest-green gate blocks vehicular traffic.

The dirt mining road looped to the south and ends -- on the Forest Service trail map -- just shy of the crest of hill 3920. I discovered that the road continued along a north-south ridgeline, over the highest point of the ridge and down into canyon.

Thinking the road would meet one of the nearby trails, I followed down it into the canyon. After a 30-minute walk, the road dead-ended into the side of the mountain.

The climb back up the hill preoccupied my mind as I hiked. If the road ended, I'd have to reclaim some 500 feet in elevation to the crest of hill 3920. Each time I checked the trail map, I told myself that I'd soon meet up with one of the trails in the Fleming Meadow system.

Once I reached the bottom, my first thought was to locate a trail along Camp Creek. But the realization that two hunters had recently fired their rifles kept me from going cross-country. I feared my dark colored clothing (blue jeans and a blue T-shirt with a grey ballcap) could confuse the hunters.

So at 4:30 p.m. I reversed course and trudged my way back to the truck. The trail switched direction four times before it turned to the north. Once on top I walked the old mine and headed for home.

For beautiful fall colors, especially those around Hope Valley, check an Sierra Foothill Magazine aricle here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Roof Climbing Squirrel

It's not often wildlife comes to us.

This afternoon as I was getting ready to leave for a hike at Sly Park, I saw a squirrel dashing through my Dutch oven equipment. He ran straight up the wall along a drain spout and settled under the eve. I found a wasp nest during my photography session with the squirrel.

He was still up there when I left at 3:30 p.m. for Sly Park. I'll post pictures from the Gouge Mile Road area tomorrow.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Topping

I watched Sandra Lee prepare a simple chicken and turkey pot pie with packaged products this morning on her Food Network show. She topped the casserole with large Pillsbury-brand biscuits and baked it in the oven.

The recipe gave me an idea for my next camping trip.

I adapted Sandra's recipe for Dutch oven. Since I don't purchase frozen onions or often use seasoning mixes (like the McCormick's Grill Mates), I slowly cooked chopped onions and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Once I mixed in the remaining ingredients, the casserole was ready for charcoal.

The chicken pot pie is made with canned soup, frozen vegetables and frozen pre-cooked chicken is sufficiently easy without using frozen onions or a seasoning mix.

The chicken mixture should be thick, so resist the urge to thin with milk or broth.


This recipe is the ideal way to use leftover cooked chicken or turkey anytime during the year.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small red potatoes, cubed
1 (16-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
2 cups cooked cubed chicken
2 (10-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
Ground black pepper, to taste

16 ounces refrigerated biscuit dough
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat 12-inch Dutch oven to approx. with 350 degrees F with 12 charcoal briquetts on lid and 7 underneath oven. Pour olive oil in hot oven. Add onions and garlic and sweat lid on until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine remaining filling ingredients in Dutch oven. Be sure to mix in onion and garlic. Check seasoning. Replace lid and bake for 1-1/2 hours. Add additional burning charcoal as needed to maintain heat.

Remove lid. Mixture should be bubbling. Gently stir mixture to evenly distribute heat. Open can of biscuit dough and arrange over top of mixture. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Return lid, adding extra burning charcoal to lid if necessary, and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes or until biscuits have risen and are golden brown.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Note on the Skunk Fire

"Firefighters breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday morning after a wildfire that burned 92 acres in El Dorado County was fully contained," reported the Sacramento Bee at 8:50 a.m.

Quick response by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Projection may have saved any number of homes in the largely rural area.

The Bee story describes the response in terms of the resources committed to the Skunk Incident:

Battling the blaze at its height were about 200 firefighters, 18 engines, eight inmate crews, four air tankers, three helicopters and one air attack aircraft, according to the CDF.
Although such a response can be costly for these incidents, this is one area where I don't mind committing hard-earned tax dollars.

I'd rather knock down these fires that occur in the foothills in the vicinity to homes and businesses first before committing millions to fires in the national forests and parks that are away from life and property.

Skunk Fire Contained

As of the 7 a.m. report on the CDF website, the Skunk fire is being reported as fully contained. Interestinly, the New10 story that was last updated at 9:58 a.m. makes no mention of the 100 percent containment.

Whiskey Creek Dutch Oven Gathering

This comes from Don Mason:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Skunk Fire

Even at this late date, fires like the Skunk show that the Northern California fire season is not over. I snapped this photo from my back yard at about 6:10 this evening. The CDF Bell Huey was flying to the northwest toward a new fire burning in the brush east of Folsom Lake, about 15 miles from my home.

A vehicle fire spread this afternoon into the nearby brush along Salmon Falls Road in El Dorado County. Currently at 80 acres, this fire has the potential to blow up.

"A red flag warning is in effect Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon," according to a KXTV Internet news story updated at 6:14 p.m.

"News10 meteorologist Monica Woods said breezy north winds will make for dry conditions," said writer C. Johnson. "Tuesday night northwest winds are expected to be between 15 and 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 35 mph."

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Visit to Apple Hill

My son and I took a late-afternoon stroll through High Hill Ranch yesterday. It's fun to walk around the Apple Barn (pictured below) and watch the sorting and packing process. Granny's, goldens and many varieties that I've never heard of can be bought by the pound or by the case.

The Apple Hill season celebrates the apple harvest up on Carson Ridge. Apple pie, apple fritter, apple butter and apple cider are available in abundance from early September until Thanksgiving time.

The Apple Hill Association features some 50 locally-owned apple ranches, Christmas tree farms, resorts and wineries. Most can be accessed along Carson Road between Placeville and Camino, right off of US 50.


Just a quick note -- picked up the Shay Station Coffee Co. blog from last Saturday. Visit for the latest news and information on the Placerville area.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Shay Station Coffee Co. in Michigan

I just saw a post from last September over at Robert Harrington's Controlled Chaos blog. There's a coffee shop in Cadillac, Michigan named after the venerable Shay locomotive.

The Shay Station Coffee Co. menu includes "special beverages from cream fruit drinks to double chocolate mochas." A fajita chicken wrap and spicy bacon turkey salads are waiting to be discovered by 1920s-style soda fountain and eatery. The ciabatta bread paninis sounds good!

Cadillac is a former logging town up on the Michigan peninsula. Logging in the region began with the opening of the Pioneer Mill in 1871, with the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad reaching Cadillac in 1872.

The Michigan Iron Works Company of Cadillac manufactured the Shay locomotive for a short time before designer Ephraim Shay licensed the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio to manufacture the geared locomotive from 1880. Production continued until 1945.

A Placerville Shay Station?

We could franchise the Shay Station Coffee Shop out Placerville way. After all, we have plenty of coffee lovers in El Dorado County. And we have the most important accoutrement -- a 99-1/2-year old Shay locomotive.

It would be much more romantic than walking into a Starbucks each day!

What more can you ask for? A Shay geared loco and good coffee. And it might be a good way to raise cash for the old No. 4!

Cross-posted at El Dorado Western Railway.

USS Boxer Condenses Meal Plan

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Valcarcel of the U.S. 7th Fleet Amphibious Force

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) (10/3/06) -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) implemented a new method of food service right before the ship’s current deployment, which began in early September.

The ship serves meals 24 hours a day to accommodate the nearly 3,000 Sailors and Marines aboard Boxer.

The concept behind 24-hour service is to help alleviate long lines, eliminate the use of meal passes and the need for saving meals for those who cannot make traditional meal hours.

“A long line with the 24-hour service is a 30 minute wait, whereas before it was over an hour,” said Boxer Senior Chief Culinary Specialist (AW/SW) Russ Paje, who helped lead the change. “People were discouraged and wouldn’t wait for the meals provided, resorting to junk food like candy and soda.”

Coinciding with the 24-hour shift, Boxer has gone from a 35-day menu to a more compact 21-day meal plan, as many ships have already done. The new meal plan will feed the crew for 21 days. At the end of those 21 days, the menu starts over again.

The 21-day meal plan relies heavily on pre-packaged goods, more than the previous meal plan. The amount of food consumed hasn’t changed, but the need for processed, non-perishable goods cuts costs.

“I believe we are saving money,” said Solares. “For example, after-hour meals required consumables like paper plates, but with the 24-hour service the need for those consumables is removed.”

Some crew members thought that by serving meals 24-hours a day, Sailors and Marines would eat too much and have trouble meeting military weight standards, while others believe this allows the crew to eat portions that are more balanced by tailoring meals to their work schedules.

“I think it takes a lot of quality food out of late night meals,” said Boxer Marine Sgt. Leonard Batiste, a well deck platoon sergeant with Boxer’s Combat Cargo department. “The guys that work at night don’t eat as well, and some guys might gain weight.”

The new schedule comes as a welcome change to many watch standers because it gives them the opportunity to get a meal without having to rush.

“I don’t complain at all,” said Aviations Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Hermis Gonzalez. “After working long hours, it’s great to have a break to eat.”

Serving food 24-hours a day also means the dining facilities need to be manned and operational around the clock. It requires two 12-hour shifts, by food service attendants and cooks, to cook, serve and clean.“

The long shifts can be really frustrating, but we’re here for the Boxer, and the crew has to eat,” said Marine Pfc. Stefan Ciotlos, assigned to the command element of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit/Special Operations Capable.

Despite the challenge that the increased workload presents, customer service is always the top priority.“

"If the crew is happy, I’m happy,” said Boxer Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Antonio Albano.

Boxer will continue with the program and monitor its progress throughout their deployment.“Feedback is all I want,” added Paje. “Making ship life more comfortable for everyone is my goal.”

Boxer, commanded by Capt. Bruce W. Nichols, is the flag ship for the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group, operating out of San Diego, which is reporting operationally to Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/ Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious task force.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Working in the Bake Shop

The USS Enterprize has been in service for over 40 years. I served as a young Navy cook with Destroyer Squadron Five onboard the USS Stien (DE-1065). The five ships of the squadron escorted the carrier from Hawaii to the Philipines in 1973 or 1974.

Arabian Sea (Aug. 31, 2006)- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Noll, from Boston, Mass., butters freshly baked rolls for the evening meal in the bakeshop aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise and its Carrier Strike Group are currently on a scheduled six-month deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Devonte Jones

Chicken Pot Pie at Sea

Pacific Ocean (Sept. 1, 2006) - Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Bernica Yactzak makes dumplings from scratch, that will be on top of chicken pot pie to be served for evening meal aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70). USS Hopper is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is on a scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations and the global war on terror.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John L. Beeman.

Navy Culinary Specialist 'Stirs' Interest in Cooking for Yokosuka Students

By Tim Shannon, Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) (10/11/2006 ) -- Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Lester Griffith, of U.S. Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka, has volunteered his time since Sept. 25 to teach local students the finer points of preparing select dishes.

Griffith teaches shipboard Sailors how to cook, but he is volunteering some of his time to teach middle school students at Department of Defense Dependant School Yokosuka Middle School the way to cook almond chicken and stir-fry vegetables, among other dishes.

"This is a great opportunity to help in the community," said Griffith.

His visits to the middle school are intended as a break from the students' normal classroom instruction and as a way to show them the career options for a chef. He also answers their questions about educational opportunities and life in the Navy.

Sherri Thomas, 8th grade family-consumer science teacher, said this is a great benefit to the students.

“Many of my students are truly interested in becoming chefs in the future. Many of our DoDDS high schools offer culinary programs. This is a great way to prepare them for that program if they are still interested when they reach high school,” said Thomas.

Griffith, along with Army food inspector, Sgt. 1st Class Tampa Transou, also of U.S. Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka, conduct most of the preparations before class starts so they can focus their classroom time on teaching the students cooking and plate presentation.

Zachary Cooper, a student in the class, said he was impressed with Griffith.

“He’s cool. He looks like one of those people on ‘Master Chef’ or something,” Cooper said.

In addition to learning actual cooking techniques, the students learned about food preparation, food safety, knife handling and sanitation.

"Having Sgt. 1st Class Transou here was a great opportunity," stated Thomas. "The students were given a lab safety and sanitation test a few weeks ago. She made sure that they were on their P’s and Q’s in the sanitation department."

Many of the students shared their creations with their teachers and principals and received rave reviews. Griffith said that he enjoyed the experience.

"The kids did great. The job was done to perfection," he said.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dutch Oven Math

Leonard Sanders, a Dutch oven cook who caters throughout California Northern Sacramento Valley, often posts Dutch oven formulas on the International Dutch Oven web forum.

Wagon Cook, as he's know on the Internet, often teaches that most Dutch oven cooking is a matter math. He often cooks by weight, not volume, when cooking in Dutch ovens. That makes sense to me because you purchase many ingredients, like potatoes, meat and beans by weight.

Here's Wagon Cook's latest page in the Dutch oven math textbook:

I use 1/4-pound of potatoes per person -- so for 80 people I would use 20 pounds. I use 1/2 pound of bacon for each 5 pounds of potatoes and one onion for each 5 pounds of potatoes. I make this recipe by potato weight and not by Dutch oven volume -- a #12 Dutch oven will hold about 5 pounds. A 12 Deep will hold about 8 pounds a 14 deep will hold about 10 pounds.

Here's an early 'Round the Chuckbox post on Wagon Cook's bean math.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ziggurat Building

My brother and I walked down to Old Sacramento for lunch this afternoon. The Ziggurat Building is one of the prominent landmarks when viewed from the river. Originally built as the Money Store, a now-defunct financial institution, the building currently houses the California Department of General Services.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Howdy from Cee Dub & Penny

Here's CeeDub's latest newsletter ...

It's been a gorgeous Indian summer here along the South Fork of Clearwater River the last couple of weeks. But, today the weather changed. I know if it's raining down here in the canyon that the high country is getting snow. Anyway ... this is the last newsletter from this spot. I'm kinda nostalgic as I sit here in the office surrounded by cardboard boxes with a half loaded trailer in the driveway.

Changes at Cee Dub's Plus Texas Clinics

We still have openings for both our Texas clinics coming up shortly in Hunt and Round Top. Due to a website glitch, online registrations have been a problem. If you wish to register, please give Al a call and he will get you registered and signed up. We'll be sending driving directions out shortly.

Every business has it's growing pains and Cee Dub's is no exception. Since we started Cee Dub's eight years ago, we've been a Mom & Pop operation. We're not growing all that much right now, but we ARE growing. We're now a Mom, Pop, and brother in-law operation.

Al Kusy, Pen's brother, is now operating our customer service and product fulfillment center out of Meridian, Idaho. Before Al signed on with Pen and me, he was a pretty fair cook in his own right. But, for the last two winters he has done our winter sport show tours with us. Please feel free to contact him for all your outdoor cooking needs or pick his brain about dutch oven cookin'!



PHONE - 208-340-5113
FAX 866-525-5504 (TOLL FREE)

E-MAIL (same as before)

From this old oak desk that I converted into a computer station when we started Cee Dub's, I've written all my newsletters, e-mailed countless Dutch oven afficianados, written three cookbooks, and visited with everyone who took the time to pick up the phone and call.

From the bottom of our hearts, both Pen and I want to thank our friends for making Cee Dub's a success! Other companies only look at "customers." But, we consider anyone who hunkers over a steaming Dutch oven loaded with wood coals or charcoal a friend first and then a customer.

We appreciate everyone's patience with customer service issues, orders, etc., as we make the this transition!

Again, all our thanks!

Cee Dub & Pen


Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Beyond

This blog is reprinted from one I adapted from an invitation by Brent Wiley on Columbus Day 2005. Brent is the evangelist for the church of Christ that meets in Los Osos, California. It gave me the opportunity to meet with local brethren while in the San Luis Obispo area last year.

This article didn't originate with Brent or myself. I'm not sure where it comes from as I've seen similar articles on various church websites (including here and here).

As you know, the Strait of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. The narrow passage is about 40 miles long and varies in width from about nine to 24 miles. All ships that sail from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean—and vice versa—must pass through the straits.

Prominent mountains (known as promontories) flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar from the east. These guardians were known to antiquity as the "Pillars of Hercules." The Rock of Gibraltar guards the European shore of the strait. To the south, a mountain in Morocco, Jebel Musa, guards the African shore.

The Spanish drew the Pillars on their 15th century coat of arms. The scroll that crossed the Pillars contained the Latin motto: Ne Plus Ultra—No More Beyond. These words warned sailors not to enter the Atlantic Ocean, for they believed nothing existed beyond the Pillars. Certain death lay beyond the Pillars, where mariners would surely sail off the edge of the earth.

However, in 1492 Christopher Columbus destroyed that common belief by sailing far out into the Atlantic Ocean—beyond the Pillars of Hercules. He discovered the New World on October 12, 1492, after a 36-day voyage from the Canary Islands.

In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. The word being torn away by the lion is the Latin word Ne, to make it read Plus Ultra, which means More Beyond.

Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond” the Pillars of Hercules.

When you think about it, the Sadducees espoused Ne Plus Ultra as well. Like the early mariners of the Mediterranean Sea, who said there was no more beyond the Pillars, the Sadducees said there was no more beyond the grave.

Jesus corrected the Sadducees’ mistaken understanding of God’s power to resurrect:
Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:29-32).
Jesus Christ, the "Lion of Judah," through His life, death, and resurrection, has torn that word Ne from the phrase, giving us the reality of More Beyond. Jesus clearly taught the Sadducees that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had moved beyond the grave to be with Him in heaven.

The Hebrew writer cautioned: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Beyond the grave, there are two destinies: The righteous shall enter into eternal life, and the wicked into everlasting punishment, according to Jesus in Matthew 25:46.

Because there is “more beyond” the grave, Jesus pleaded:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
What is your destiny beyond the grave? Which way will you take?

Will you stand with the Sadducees and proclaim that there is no more beyond the grave? To do so is to "go away onto everlasting punishment" when you die.

Or will you pass through the narrow "strait"—that is to heaven? Jesus has prepared a home for you in heaven (John 14:1-3).

Be ready, for there is more beyond.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More Chocolate Pie

Two slices of the chocolate pie remained in the refrigerator at work this morning. So, Glenn and I added pie to our respective lunches.

Now Glenn wants another chocolate cream pie. He says there was a slight refrigerator taste to it. After a holiday weekend, he may be right!

I guess I'll have to bring pie to the next company pot luck.

Monday, October 09, 2006

French Fried Cauliflower

This recipe may be nothing more than a curiosity to most folks. It's adapted from the circa 1970s U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Card Q-20.

For those who want to try this recipe, use it a starting point. I found one recipe that calls for a yeast-risen batter that's flavored with dry mustard and a touch of sugar, not no Parmesan. Another used cumin and tumeric to give it a Southern flare.


Prepares 100 (1/2-cup) portions.

5 cups milk
12 eggs, beaten
12 pounds frozen cauliflower, partially thawed
2 pounds 6 ounces all-purpose flour
2-1/2 ounces salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
9 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Mix milk and eggs well. Cut large cauliflower pieces in half . Combine flour, salt, pepper and cheese.

Dip in milk and egg mixture. Drain well. Dredge cauliflower in flour mixture. Shake off excess. Fry 3 minutes in 375-degree deep fat fryer or until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

NOTE: Fry in small batches. Cauliflower loses crispness if allowed to stand on steam table.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Feeding the Soul and Body

This weekend is the annual lectureship for the Pollock Pines-Camino Church of Christ at its building in Camino, California. Don Truex, an evangelist who serves a church in Temple Terrace, Florida, is preaching a series of five lessons on "The Christian in a Secular Culture."

He lead this morning's first lesson with this scripture:
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:15-17).
In the prayer that Jesus offered to His Father on the night of His betrayal, Jesus is asking His Father to guide the Apostles through His word. He didn't ask that they be removed from the world, only that they would be protected from the crafty ways of the devil.

Christians are sanctified "in the truth," that is through the word of God. We the follow the word that instructs "us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age ... (Titus 2:12)." We are "kept from the evil one" as we jealously follow the pattern of life as sent forth in the word.

Feeding the body

After listening to two lessons from brother Truex, the congregation adjourned to one of the houses for a pot luck lunch. Since I've been batting one of those knock-down colds, I had not taken the time to prepare a dish for the meal.

The head of cauliflower that was languishing in the produce crisper made the perfect dish for the pot luck. I was able to prepare roasted cauliflower with caramelized onions in about 45 minutes to one hour as we were getting ready to attend the services.

There is no recipe for this dish. Like my recipe for roasted cauliflower with gorgonzola from vacation last July, this is one of those side dishes that came together as I cooked. It reminded me of french fried cauliflower, a dish that we often prepared in Navy galleys in the 1970s.

To get started, cut a head of cauliflower into flowerets. I like to cut the head in quarters and then slice each quarter into 1/2-inch slices. This gives you nice flat surfaces that easily brown.

Cut a large yellow onion into this slices. Set a cast iron skillet over a medium flame to pre-heat. When hot, pour a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the oven. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to avoid burning. Remove caramelized onion to a bowl.

See my blog on Saturday morning breakfast for my thoughts on caramelizing onions.

Add more olive oil to the skillet. Add the cauliflower and watch the heat. Too much and you'll burn everything. Too little and you'll be in the kitchen all night.

With the flame adjusted properly, it'll take 5 to 10 minutes to see the cauliflower change color. At first the flowerets will turn a creamy yellow. Then as you stir and toss, the peaks will turn to a golden brown.

Be patient. This part takes time (a half-hour or more) to thoroughly brown the cauliflower. Turn the heat down a notch if it's browning too fast. Give it a small boost if nothing's happening.

What you're looking for is a rich golden brown color and nutty aroma. When brown, leave the cauliflower in the skillet. Add the reserved onions and stir. Stir in chopped fresh thyme or rosemary and chopped flat-leaf parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

If desired, top the dish with grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and just starts to brown.

You'll know the roasted cauliflower is done when the nutty aroma wafts up to you.

Enjoy ...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Last Night's Chocolate Cream Pie

I took the leftover chocolate cream pie to work this morning. A recent wave of diet conscienceness among the ladies wrecked havoc on my plan to spread pie throughout the office.

As I hollered at each passing worker, Denny, one the managers, asked, "Does Glenn know about the pie?" No, I responded.

It seems that Glenn, the guy who's in charge of space issues for our building, loves good pie.

Glenn got his pie. If all goes well, the pie's silky smooth texture may guarantee that I get the largest office when our division is reorganized in a month or two.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Adjourn to Pie

The El Dorado Western Railway Foundation has a tradition.

Regardless of the scope of discussion or extent of disagreement, the board meeting always adjourns to pie. A slice of pie and cup of juice has a way of placing us at ease. It allows us to relax and turn our attention away from the business of running a railroad.

This evening's meeting is my first turn to bring pie. Each board member is scheduled to bring pie once each year. My next scheduled turn is September 7, 2007.

I had a rare opportunity to bake a chocolate cream pie for the meeting. Baking the pie brought bake fond memories of baking in the Navy. I first worked as a night-shift baker at Naval Air Station Lemore, California while assigned to Attack Squadron 127. Each night the crew baked about 200 single-and double-crust pies.

Always weigh your ingredients for best results.


This recipe comes from the fourth edition of Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen.

1 pint milk
2 ounces sugar
2 egg yokes
1 whole egg
1-1/4 ounces cornstarch
2 ounces sugar
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 ounce sweetened chocolate
1 ounce unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, dissolve sugar and in the milk and bring to just a boil. With a wire whisk, beat the eggs yokes and whole egg in a stainless steel bowl. Sift the starch and sugar into the eggs. Beat with the whisk until smooth.

Temper the egg mixture by slowly beating in the hot milk in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.

Meanwhile, melt the unsweetened and sweetened chocolate together and mix into the hot vainly cream filling. Stir in butter and vanilla. Mix until the butter is melted and completely melted in.

Pour into baked, cooled 9-inch pie shell. Cook, then keep chilled. Topped with whipped cream and cut into 6 or 8 slices as desired.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dinner at Tailholt Spike Camp

This spike camp dinner line was set up at a location called Tailholt in the Payette National Forest in Idaho last August. Most of the menu items are being served straight out of its original packaging. The Tailholt Fire was part of the larger South Fork Complex. The complex is a series of nine lightening fires that burned from August 8, 2006.

Photo credit: K. Seay.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Denny Spike Camp

Spike camps are often used by incident management teams to locate fire crews close to the fire line. A spike camp is a temporary facility with limited logistic resources. At a minimum, spike camps will have rudimentary dining facilities, with food being trucked or flown in from the incident base camp.

The meal is usually cooked in the mobile kitchen, which can be located 10 to 20 miles from the spike camp. Breakfast and the sack lunch are transported to the spike camp early in the morning. Dinner will be delivered in the evening as the crews are returning from the fire.

These photos are from the website for the Bar Complex Wildland Fire, which is located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California.

Fire crews eat breakfast at Denny spike camp. Hot food is brought to the camp in the white 5-gallon buckets, or "hot cans." Meals served out of hot cans must be served within a four-hour window. The buckets aren't designed to hold hot or cold food for long periods of time.

Many menu items are purchased in pre-portioned packages. Since there is little refrigeration at a spike camp, leftover food must be consumed or discarded.

This meal line is reminiscent of meals my cooks delivered to Seabees working in the field during my 20 years in Naval Construction Force units. Although we don't use the term spike camp in the Seabees, the idea is the same.

Photo credit: Paul Slenkamp of the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Fire crews returning to the Denny spike camp in the evening after a day on the fire line. This camp is located in a large dry meadow.

Fire crews are often "spiked" in locations much closer to the fire line. It's more efficient to bring meals and supplies to the firefighters than to transport then from and to the base camp each morning and evening. Spike camps are often relocated every two or more days as the fire line changes.

Photo credit: Mike Johnson of the National Park Service.

Redding Smoke Jumpers Eating Breakfast

Fires are still burning out there, although the fire situation has improved dramatically with cooler weather and a hint of rain over the weekend in Northern California. The Bar Complex Wildland Fire, near Weaverville, California, is only 43 percent contained as of the morning report on At 97,320 acres, it's one of the larger wildland fires in the north state this year. The Bar has burned since July 23. Estimated containment won't occur until October 15, 2006.

Photo credit: Mike Hazlett of Sacramento Metro Fire.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hamburger Stroganoff

Just about every hamburger stroganoff recipe on the Internet contains the same ingredients: ground beef, chopped onion, sliced white button mushrooms (canned or fresh), all-purpose flour and a can or two of condensed cream of mushroom (or chicken) soup.

Some recipes add garlic. Most recipes are seasoned with salt, ground black pepper and sweet ground paprika. And I've seen a few that suggest a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or catsup.

Even Emeril behaved himself. His recipe for hamburger stroganoff follows the traditional formula with few exceptions. He adds his Essence in place of paprika and suggests that you garnish the dish with grated white cheddar cheese and chopped parsley.

This is the recipe that I grew up on. I didn't know there was any other kind until my first visit Hong Kong on the USS Cocopa in the 1972. A group of us visited a European restaurant on the Kawloon side of Victoria Harbor.

Stroganoff was the perfect comfort food for this sailor away from home for the first time. Instead, the waiter surprised me with traditional stroganoff. The sauteed strips of tender beef in a light sour cream based sauce were amazing.

Hamburger stroganoff may not resemble the dish that carries Count Pavel Stroganoff's name. But it's pure comfort food. The rich mushroom flavor and creamy tanginess of the sour cream warms the belly and reminds me of home.


You can use most any condensed cream soup in the pantry. My mother always used cream of celery. I like the mushroom soup because it adds a nice mushroom base to the dish. Substituted sliced crimini mushrooms for the white buttons if desired.

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup lowfat milk
1 cup (8 ounces) lowfat sour cream

Place ground beef in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until meat is browned. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until just tender. Drain off any excess fat in the skillet. Blend flour, salt, paprika and black pepper into beef. Immediately stir in condensed soup and milk into mixture.

Cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Thin the stroganoff with extra milk if it's too thick. Stir in sour cream and heat through. Serve hamburger stroganoff over mashed potatoes, steamed rice or egg noodles. The recipe yields about 4-1/2 cups. Serves 6 (3/4-cup) portions.