Monday, December 31, 2007

High Sierra Kitchen

Blog no. 31 looks back to one of my favorite photographic trips this year. I hiked up to Glen Alpine Springs twice during vacation last August. If I lived in South Lake Tahoe, I'd volunteer just for the opportunity to sweep the flour in this kitchen!

After my son and I hiked up the historic Glen Alpine Resort early during a week-long vacation, I knew that I had to return later in the week. (You can access my original blog here.) My goal for the second hike was to photograph the kitchen and dining room in greater detail.

These photographs were shot through the windows as I couldn't get inside that afternoon. I was able to significantly reduce the glare by placing the camera lens right up against the glass pane. Here's the result:

The Glen Alpine preservation society fires the kitchen each July to prepare a $200 per plate fundraising dinner. Chefs cook "an atmospheric gourmet meal" to 60 guests who're "served on china and linens and the original tables from the 1920s" in the stone dining room.

With the exception of the wood stove (under the hood to the right in the photo), much of the equipment in the kitchen is up-to-date. I haven't been able to locate the menu for the event, but I can imagine a rustic bill of fare with a savory mountain trout with browned butter and capers, pork tenderloin medallions with apples and onions or herb-roasted chicken half.

Here's what the Glen Alpine Resort website says about the dining room: "The tablecloths were white. Flowers were on every table. Napkins were linen. The plates were china. Guests 'dressed' for dinner at Glen Alpine Springs Resort. The Galts offered breakfast and lunch at 75 cents each in 1923."

I'd love to learn more about the origin of the cast iron Dutch oven and skillets. From my vantage through the window, the skillets look to be from a different era. I can't date the Dutch oven. From its shape, it may be a modern Lodge home oven.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Days are Getting Longer

One more and I'm in the blog-a-day zone for December. It's nap time with blog no. 30.

Daylight hours are inching upwards now that winter's here. Soon this chair will invite company or an afternoon nap. It looks inviting, but the the blue tone gives me the sense that it's a little cool to sit in. The chair is was found along the El Dorado Trail in Smith Flat.

Playin' with Trains

Rollin' down the tracks with blog. no 29 ...

Do you want to feel like a kid again? Play with trains.

It's as easy as digging the old set out of the closet, assembling the track and running a model train. Watching a model of a 2-6-0 Mogul circle the track is fun and will give hours of entertainment.

Keith and I pieced G-scale track together in his living room on Christmas afternoon. He coupled a gondola, cattle car, box car and caboose from the Denver & Rio Grand Railroad to the locomotive. As the train circled the track, Keith and I talked about trains, and I learned a little about a new class of locomotive.

As a teenager I was fascinated with trains. I spent many hours perusing railroad books and model railroad magazines, looking for the perfect track layout. It took a jar of nickels and dimes to purchase each piece of rolling stock and building.

Since passing my HO train set to a nephew sometime in the 1980s, I really haven't thought to get involved again. Books, videos and the renovation of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 has satisfied my urge to play with trains.

I'm sure we'll get the set out again soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

First Snow

The first snow of the season comes to you in blog no. 28 ...

A light snow fell through the night at my house, which is located on the 1,800-foot contour. I know snow is old hat to many in the northeast and midwest as we approach the New Year. But here in western El Dorado County, it's a different story. Snow only dusts the mid-elevations two or three times each winter and spring.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old Rail Never Dies

Blog no. 27 brings a lesson in recycling ...

I suppose you could say, "Old rail never dies. It gets reused."

Several feet of old railroad rail, presumably salvaged from the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad, were fashioned into an iron retaining wall. The wall supports the built-up roadbed around a culvert. This retaining wall won't rust away soon.

Maintenance of way crews fabricated the wall from discarded rail. Railroad mechanics were masters at reusing old materials laying around the shop. It fit their operating model to scrimp, save and repair everything without spending a dime.

I'd say this wall, when amortized over the years, this wall will cost less than a penny per year!


We get a chance to gaze at the "wildlife" with blog no. 26 ...

This guy came out to chew up the grass on the hillside when my wife and I took an evening stroll along the El Dorado Trail.

Don't Smell Me, I'm Here to Work

Blog no. 25 brings you a little gem from 90 years ago ...

In October 1917, the American Railway Bridge and Building Association met in Chicago for its 27th annual convention. Among the convention topics was a discussion on the feeding and housing of railway maintenance crews.

Association president S.C. Tanner of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad told this story to highlight the need for bathing facilities to convention goers:
It reminds me of a story of a little boy whose mother sewed him up in his underclothes and sent him to school. He had been going in a steam-heated schoolroom for about a month. Finally the teacher didn't like his smell, so she sent him home with a note which said, "Give Jackie a bath and send him back." Jackie came back all right, and written across the bottom of the note the teacher had sent was scrawled, "Jackie isn't a rose—learn him—don't smell him."
Fortunately, my experience falls to the positive side of the bathing equation.

As a tugboat and destroyer sailor in the 1970s, the captain always exempted the cooks and hospital corpsmen from water restrictions in the showers. The captain -- with persuasion from the ship's medical officer -- recognized the importance of hygiene for these key crewmen.

After all, smelling the food is much more pleasurable than smelling the cook!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sea-going Fathers

Debbie and I didn't meet, marry and have children until after my discharge from active duty in 1979. As a reservist, I was blessed to be present at the birth of all my children. From a 1975 Enterprize battle group sailor to this new father, blog no. 24 salutes all sea-going fathers and mothers.

NORFOLK, Virginia. (Dec. 19, 2007) Culinary Specialist 3rd class Richard Herek, assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), holds his two-month-old daughter for the first time as he returns to Naval Station Norfolk after a six-month deployment. Arleigh Burke, part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility to support theater security cooperation and maritime security operations.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jon Dasbach.

A Step Back in Time

We're hiking on the old railroad in blog no. 23. There are no more ties to count on the old Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe right-of-way. Soon I'll stop counting the blogs of December.

Trails like the El Dorado Trail fascinate me. Hiking gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and peer into the thick understory. And it's a wonderful walk to enjoy with my wife.

My love of history sometimes shades my view of the trail. It's the evidence of human interaction with the environment that draws me. Each rusted hulk of an iron culvert or rotting railroad tie supplies endless hours of exploration along the trail.

As we hiked the grade, it was easy to picture one of the railroad's two 70-ton Shay geared locomotives pulling a consist of empty cars to the mill in Camino.

The Shay wouldn't have broken any speed records up the grade, which reached five percent in places. Like the turtle in the children's story, the locomotive pulled the grade with a slow, steady pace. Set in perpetual granny gear, the engine always made it to the top.

Ditches, old roads and any foundation or rotting trestle timbers help me visualize the lay of the land. I can trace a railroad right-of-way through the forest, making judgements as to its likely route.

This is really walking relaxation -- much like my love of driving forest roads -- that helps me unwind from the events of the day.

We'll come back to the El Dorado Trail often. This is the first time we've hiked the trail in our 14-year residence in El Dorado County. Often, the best outings are located in your backyard.

Even though the path fascinates me, with its connection to the short line that wound its way up the hill on a 1,900-foot climb from Mosquito Road in Placerville to the old Michigan-California lumber mill in Camino, it also gives me time to walk with Debbie and enjoy the outdoors.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Friend of God

Most of us value friendships. We look for friends who will provide many hours of comfort and companionship. They become partners in life, true comrades who are there to comfort, assist and guide.

Who is the greatest friend that you can have? While many have close friends that are of great value, God is the one friend that we should value above all. This thought is found in James 2:23:
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
Abraham is characterized as a “friend of God” because he trusted God throughout his life. His first desire is to be a friend with God. Abraham did this by placing his complete trust in God.

From the time God told Abraham to "get out of your country" (Genesis 12:1), he demonstrated a working faith throughout his 175 years on earth. God accounted Abraham's belief in His promises as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The promise was that an heir would come from his body, even though he and Sarah were past childbearing years (Genesis 15:1-5; Hebrews 11:11-12).

Late in his life, Abraham's faith grew to the point where he "concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Hebrews 11:17-22). His faith had matured to the point where he was ready to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the promise (Genesis 22:1-19).

When you look at the greater context of James 2:23, you see that being a friend with God involves a working faith. The writer argues in verses 14-26 that the Christian can only be demonstrate belief in God through good works. Without works, you have a dead faith, says James.

Scripture definitely makes the connection between friendship and placing your complete trust in God. This is a friendship that believes God and trusts Him to fulfill His promises. Like those recorded in the great "hall of faith" in Hebrews 11, a friend of God is one who "diligently seeks Him" (Hebrews 11:6) through a "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

Like Abraham, we should value a friendship with God. I'm sure that he enjoyed many hours of companionship with his wife Sarah, Lot and those of his household. But the one lasting friend that Abraham valued was the one with God. After all, it's God who said, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward" (Genesis 15:1b).

Cold Breakfast

As I write this blog about cold weather cooking, I'm sure some will say, "What's the big deal? We cook in the cold all the time." To this California raised boy, it's cold anytime the mercury dips below 32. You'll need your long undies for blog no. 21 ...

The outside temperature was 27 degrees F. when I left the house Saturday. Although the forecast was for a pleasant day in the mid-40s, I knew I'd have to fight frozen water pipes at the engine house when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. I didn't want to repeat the frozen pipe/water jug mess I had at the engine house last winter. (I cooked potato leek soup that Saturday.)

When I packed the truck Friday evening, I set the five-gallon water jug in the cab. I also filled the large coffee boiler and insulated beverage dispenser with extra water. This gave me enough cooking and cleaning water for the breakfast. I figured a gallon per person would suffice (seven volunteers showed up).

And the jug in the cab didn't freeze, which meant I could work with liquid water. Last year, I had to thaw the water jug first, a recipe for delayed coffee and meal.

The picture shows my impromptu buffet line. The 10-inch camp oven holds the grilled sausage and the 5-inch oven contains hot syrup. The melted butter in the small aluminum pot solidified almost immediately when I set it on the cold iron.

The temperature was still in the low 30s when I served breakfast at 9:30 a.m. I served the French toast right out of the skillet.

The Camp Chef cast iron conditioner was still frozen solid at 10 a.m. To thaw, I tossed it inside the 9-quart coffee boiler for 10 minutes.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Railroad Breakfast

We have breakfast vittles for blog no. 20 ...

Keith called early last week and asked if I could cook a festive breakfast for the group of volunteers at the El Dorado Western Railway.

As we talked during my commute home Tuesday, his vision was limited to Dutch oven coffee cake and lots of hot coffee. He even offered to buy a coffee blander at the local coffee house.

After a quick browse through my culinary idea files, I found the recipe for orange cream cheese French toast. Tucked way several years ago was a short article from Restaurant Business magazine.

Executive chef Gary Arthur spreads, the article explained, "cream cheese blended with orange marmalade" on white bread purchased from a local Santa Rosa, California, bakery and "forms into sandwiches." Arthur then dips the sandwiches in beaten eggs spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

"Arthur serves his French toast with organic maple syrup, berry compote 'towers,' and chicken-apple sausage," the article continued.

The breakfast-turned brunch dish is popular at Arthur's Terrace Grille restaurant on Sundays.

When we talked Friday night, Keith expressed concern that I was making this meal a little complicated.

"Naw," I answered. "I do this all the time." The expected freeze was my only concern (more in a later blog). Cooking is second nature to me, I explained.

I left the hot fruit compote off the menu. Railroad men are just as happy with imitation maple syrup and a little jam on the side. And since chicken-apple sausage isn't available in Placerville, I figured the crew would be happy with regular sausage links.

Here's the menu for the crew:

Railroad coffee
Orange Juice
Orange cream cheese French toast
Grilled maple sausage links
Maple syrup
Wild Main blueberry jam


1/2 cup milk
6 eggs
2 ounces honey
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Vanilla extract, to taste
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 oz. orange marmalade
12 slices premium white bread
3 ounces butter

Combine milk, eggs, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Whisk to mix well and set aside. In a bowl, blend cream cheese and marmalade together until smooth. Spread mixture on bread slices, forming 6 sandwiches.

Cut sandwiches in half diagonally and dip into egg mixture, coating both sides. Melt butter in large cast iron pan. Add sandwich halves and saute over medium heat until golden brown on both sides.

Cut into triangles and garnish with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar. Serve with maple syrup and sausages. Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hand Washing Station

Your local health department brings you the 19th post of the month.

Proper hand washing is an essential skill for any camp cook, a practice that's vital to food safety. Unclean hands contaminate food. The cooks must be able to wash his hands often. And he can't do that without the right facilities.

Many outdoor kitchens lack the necessary sink and hot running water so the cook can wash his hands often. This set up gives you the tools to wash your hands with warm running water.

It's really simple. All you need is an insulated beverage jug, detergent dispenser, roll of paper towels and catch basin. Any beverage container that'll hold the heat for more than a few hours will suffice.

Heat a gallon or two of water to at least 120 degrees F. and pour it into the beverage container. The water should be on the hot side, but not too hot to burn. Add cold water to cool the water if necessary.

The diagram illustrates the requirements for temporary hand washing facilities by the El Dorado County, California, Environmental Management Department.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Five Months to May Flowers

Blog no. 18 brings you last springs wildflowers ...

I photographed these lupines early last April at the corner of Pleasant Valley Road and Fowler Lane in Diamond Springs, California. Each spring the corner where Highway 49 turns north to Placerville puts on a colorful show. Cobalt-blue lupines and golden California poppies brightened any day until someone mows the corner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prelude to Wildflowers

Here's blog no. 17 ...

The Woods Lake basin is now blanketed in snow from the storms this week. When the snow melts this June, we'll be rewarded by rich fields of alpine wildflowers. Nourishing water will melt deep into the rocky soil and fill the lakes and streams.

This photo is from our Veteran's Day trip up Highway 88 to Wood's Lake. The Woods Creek bridge takes you to the Winnemucca Lake trailhead.

I definitely will return this coming June to photograph the wildflowers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chicken with Rice

Blog no. 16 is eradicating the teenage I'm-so-hungry-I-could-eat-a-cow blues ...

If I were looking to put some weight on my 16-year-old son, I'd feed him a steady diet of tacos, rice and pizza. Jake's slemder waist could stand a few more inches.

My menu has proven an effect weapon against teenage hunger more than once. Serve these foods to him and he's a happy camper.

Like many teenagers, fish tacos are out. I take few chances. Three or four ground beef tacos piled with shredded cheddar or pepper jack will satisfy him for an evening.

And the pizza must be pepperoni. He'll tolerate sausage. But mushrooms, olives and peppers are out.

Jake has never been a potato eater like his sisters. He's always favored rice. Any pilaf-style rice catches his attention.

"Dad, that was good," Jake remarked as he finished his second helping when I served baked chicken and rice last week. I barely had enough for my lunch the next day.

This evening I prepared chicken with rice recipe in my grandmother's old fry skillet. The recipe, adapted from Sunset Magazine, had been sitting in my clipping file since May 2004. It's identical to the dish that I often cook for the family.

Chicken with rice is a versatile one-pot meal. You saute the chicken in the pot first, set it aside and prepare the rice. After adding chicken broth and flavorings, set the chicken in a single layer on top. Everything bakes together. The poultry imparts a rich chicken flavor to the casserole.

So, if you need a dish to satisfy teenage hunger pains, or just have a family to feed, chicken with rice will fit the bill.


Use about 2-1/2 pounds diced pre-cooked chicken in place of the thighs if desired. This is a good way to use leftover chicken. To prepare, skip the first two steps. Proceed with the onions, chilies and garlic. Stir chicken in with the broth and tomatoes. Bake as instructed, being careful not to overcook the chicken.

8 chicken thighs (about 6-ounces each)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and sliced
1-1/2 cup long-grain rice
2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chilies
1-3/4 cups frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Remove skin from chicken. Trim and discard excess fat. Rub chili powder all over chicken. Heat oil in 7-quart Dutch oven (or 12-inch camp oven) over medium-high heat.

Add chicken in a single layer and turn as need to brown both sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Brown in 2 batches, if necessary to avoid over-crowding. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion, garlic and chilies to pan. Stir often until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir until opaque. Add broth, tomatoes, corn and cilantro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt to taste.

Lay chicken over rice in Dutch oven. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven until chicken is tender and chicken is done, about 30 minutes. Serve 1 or 2 pieces of chicken to each diner. Save leftover rice for lunches and late-night snacks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Village Smith

We're posting them at the rate on one a day. That makes this blog no. 15 for December ...

Once a common sight in America, technological advances have bypassed the blacksmith shop. The blacksmith repaired and manufactured most everything made from metal. Tools for miners, loggers and farmers were everyday products for the town smith. Unlike the shop at Coloma State Historic Park, the blacksmith shop located at the El Dorado County Historical Museum serves as a static exhibit today.

Ramp En' Up

Here's a piece of history from the Wood Lake area. Blog no. 14 brings you a picture of the Woods Lake chute ...

This corral is a reminder that foothill cattlemen drove their herds to summer pastures high in the Sierra Nevada each spring. These corrals were once a common sight in mountain meadows. I remember watching the herbs as a young camper in the 1960s in Sierra and Sequoia national forests.

The cows never really bothered you. You just had to watch for cow pies in the meadows and along stream courses. And it was always a good idea to dip your cup upstream from the beeves.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Armed Cook

Not all cooks work in peaceful environments. Some -- especially military cooks deployed to a combat zone -- must bring multiple skills to the table. Blog no. 13 brings news of one armed Navy cook deployed to Afganistan.

MAYMANEH, Afghanistan (Oct. 30, 2007) Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Wright, assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, cuts up pomegranates to put out as a snack. In addition to his duties as a cook, Wright is also responsible to order and store all supplies; and for all maintenance, hygiene and upgrades to the galley.

MAYMANEH, Afghanistan (Oct. 30, 2007) Culinary Specialist 2nd Wright teaches Nasim, the Afghan cook, how to make an apple dessert. Wright is often required to prepare large meals for groups of soldiers who come through the Forward Operating Base on short notice.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David M.Votroubek.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Piquinto Beans with Spicy Red Sauce

Now this recipe for blog no. 12 ...

Last September these lively beans accompanied a grilled tri-tip roast for a fund raiser and silent auction in Pleasanton, California. The potatoes, along with creamy scalloped potatoes and the roast, formed the menu.

A mixed green salad, dressed with a vibrant line-cilantro vinaigrette, and Dutch oven peach crisp completed the meal.


One pound of dry beans yields about two quarts when cooked. Use an eight-quart Dutch oven for this recipe.

3 pounds pink beans
8 ounces bacon, chopped
12 ounces onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-1/4 cups tomato puree
3/4 cup chili sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dry mustard

Pick over beans to remove dirt and small stones. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cut the heat and let the beans set for 1 hour.

Saute bacon and until lightly browned. Add the onion and sweat until soft. Add the garlic and sweat a minute or two longer. Pour bacon and onion mixture into the bean pot.

Bring to a boil and simmer 2 hours, covered, or until beans are tender. Combine the tomato puree, chili sauce, sugar, mustard and salt. Drain most of liquid off beans and stir in sauce. Makes 6 quarts or about 50 (1/2-cup) servings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Meatballs with White Caper Sauce

Holiday office party vittles come to you in post no. 11 ...

Too much food! That's the only way to describe the office progressive potluck today.

In case you're wondering what it is, the instructional email provided this guidance: "A progressive meal is eating one course at one location, then moving on to another location for your next course. No need to carry your plate from location to location – each food station will be equipped with plates, utensils and beverages."

Our wise potluck planners made full use of gravity. Appetizers were spotted on the sixth floor. After perusing some 30 to 40 dishes (including my meatballs with white caper sauce), revellers rolled down to the third floor break room for the main event. Dessert and coffee ended the rolling potluck on the first floor.

Each floor was a meal unto itself. After eating full plates on six and three, we welcomed the smaller dessert plates in the first flour executive offices.

Most of my co-workers wallowed back to their cubicles and attempted to work for the rest of the afternoon.

An appetizer recipe

I began my search for an appetizer recipe yesterday afternoon. I knew that my shopping list had to be in hand when I stepped off the bus. This recipe adapted from a recipe published on the Restaurant Hospitality magazine website.

Meatballs with white caper sauce appealed on several levels. First, it was relatively easy to prepare. The meatballs came together in less than 30 minutes.

It took another 20 minutes in the oven to finish the meatballs. The 67 meatballs (my wife snagged one!) fit snugly in a 3-quart Rubbermaid container. The sauce came together in about 30 minutes. It traveled to work in a second container.

The recipe added a certain "wow" to the Christmas festivities at work. I enjoy bringing dishes to potluck meals that are a little out of the mainstream -- at least out of the potluck mainstream.

Caper sauce has a long history in European culinary circles. It often accompanies boiled mutton, fish and meatballs. Caper sauce seems to have its origins with the savory veloute sauce -- a stock-based white sauce made with veal, chicken or fish stock.

Most modern examples, like chef Hans Aeschbacher's recipe from Restaurant Hospitality, use the creamy bechemel sauce as the base for caper sauce. The simplest way to prepare the sauce is to add two tablespoons of drained capers to one cup of white sauce, hollandaise or mayonnaise. The added zip will surprise you.


You're looking for a light to medium white sauce -- one that coats without clumping or pooling between the meatballs. For a richer sauce, whisk two or three pats of soft unsalted butter into the warm sauce just before serving.

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1-1/2 pounds lean ground pork
6 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups dry Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1-1/2 cup onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup minced onion
1 ounce unsalted butter
1 ounce all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup small capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Combine beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Add more bread crumbs if needed to form balls that hold their shape. Shape meat mixture into 1-inch balls with a 1-ounce ladle or no. 30 disher. Bake in 350°F oven 18-20 minutes to medium-well doneness, until not pink in center and juices show no pink color.

Meanwhile, combine wine and onion in medium saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes, or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add cream and cloves and reduce further by 1/2. Reduce heat to medium. Add milk to wine-cream mixture while stirring.

Make a white roux with butter and flour. Slowly whisk in roux and cook until until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat. Strain if desired for smooth sauce. Add capers, salt and pepper. Combine meatballs and sauce. Serve banquet-style in chafing dish or from steam table. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 65 to 70 meatballs.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Gatherning Place for Camp Cooks

No. 10 brings news you can use ...

I've started posting at under the moniker SeabeeCook. If you're looking you looking for a place to ask how-to questions of seasoned camp cooks, I'd recommend following the link and register. offers a bulliten board that's devoted to one thing: camp cooking.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Headin' to Logger's Final Rest

I took the photo for blog no. 9 this afternoon at the El Dorado Western Railway engine house.

This is one of those special effects that's not supposed to be. Standing on the deck of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive, I shot a series of photos of Keith and Sam as they removed the number three piston from the engine.

As I shot one last picture of Sam haul the piston to the machine shop, the camera buzzed back and forth while it tried to find a focal point. Sam was nearly outside the engine house when the camera flashed. The photo reminds me of Sam heading to the logger's final reward with a 75-pound piston slung over his shoulder.

Shot settings: f/5.6, 1/45 second shutter speed, ISO 400, 49 mm focal length in manual exposure mode with flash.

Vet's Day Campfire

Better read before blog no. 8 goes up in smoke ...

I took a drive up Highway 88 last Veteran's Day with my wife and son. After visiting the Woods Lake basin, we turned west and found a spot to light a campfire a long the old highway. The secluded camping spot that had a large rock fire pit. It took an hour to burn the fire down to a bed of coals for dinner.


This recipe is adapted from an advertisement for Campbell's Soup in Sunset magazine. Substitute one head each of broccoli and cauliflower for a fresh alternative. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into bite-sized flowerettes to ensure even cooking. A half recipe can be prepared in a 8- or 10-inch Dutch oven.

2 (10-3/4-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 (16-ounce) bags frozen broccoli, thawed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 (3-1/2-ounce) box Panco breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter

Stir soup, milk, cheese and mustard together in a 12-inch Dutch oven. Fold broccoli in to coat with sauce. Bake with coals for 350 degrees until sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Mix breadcrumbs and butter in medium bowl. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over broccoli and replace lid. Continue baking until breadcrumbs have browned and broccoli is tender. Prepares 12 servings.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Sallor's Thanksgiving

Here's two US Navy photos for blog no. 7 of December 2007. The cooks work hard to prepare enjoyable holiday meals. These meals are important moral boosters for the crew with the reality of family separation.

CORONADO, Calif. (Nov. 22, 2007) - Culinary Specialist 1st Class Mila Thomas carves the roast beef for Thanksgiving dinner aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Reagan catered a Thanksgiving meal for over 500 Sailors and their families. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lawrence J. Davis.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 23, 2007) - Culinary Specialist 1st Class Matthew McFarlane slices ham for the Thanksgiving Day meal aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56). McCain, part of Destroyer Squadron 15, is underway on a scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tahoe Chipmunk

No. 6 takes you back to our Lake Tahoe vacation ...

Here's a nice shot of a furry resident of South Lake Tahoe's Pope Estate. This guy and his (her?) buddies live under the staff cabins and other out buildings. I know the photograph is a little fuzzy, but this was the best I could do at playing National Geographic photographer while my family walked on.

I'm sure the snow and chill winter has driven these little guys have underground. They weren't very cooperative in warmer times.

Reminiscent of the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, who quickly adapted whenever to Captain Picard and crew aimed their weapons. As soon as I raised my camera to eye level, these pint-sized residents scattered. They seem to have all summer to learn how to avoid photographers.

I bet this guy was having a slow day.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Consolidation Head On

Looks like I just broke through my December blogging slump with no. 5 ...

Here's head-on shot of the Consolidation. Friend Keith Berry noted that by the turn on the 19th century, these mightily locomotives were relegated to branch line operation. They were popular many industrial and short line operations.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Coal-Burning Consolidation

Chuggin' along the tracks to no. 4 ...

Although its scaled to one-eighth the size of a real locomotive, this Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive functions in the same manner as its full-sized cousin. Owner Milon Thorely of El Dorado, California, uses coal in the firebox to produce the steam. The gauges and valves -- from the water glass and pressure gauge to the throttle and injector valves -- control the operation of the boiler and locomotive like they once did in the Consolidations that pulled freight trains.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Consolidation 2-8-0

Here's the 613, our 3rd post of the month ...

The El Dorado and Southern No. 613, a 7-1/2-inch gauge Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive, releases steam after an afternoon of running the rails at the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers in Rancho Cordova, California.

Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter

Here's blog no. 2 ...

Here is Don Mason's early winter edition of his Dutch Oven Cooking newsletter. To have a copy emailed directly to your computer, contact Don at

Winter Camp Cookoff in Colusa, California

I had intended to post a record number of articles last month (the 2007 record is 21 in July). It should've been an easy task. A number of pictures, including a few family pics from Thanksgiving, are lined up. Let's see if I can top that goal this month. So, after a 10-day hiatus, here's my first blog of December:

The 6th Annual Winter Camp Dutch Oven Cookoff will take place in Colusa, California on Saturday, January 19, 2008. I watched the event, which is set up under a large barn-like fairground shelter, in 2004 and cooked in 2005 with my son.

Unlike the picture, the ground won't be covered in snow. But the heavy fog, wet drizzle and bone chilling wind is promised. Several fire pits lined down the center of the pavilion will warm the body. Your job is to warm the soul with great tasting vittles!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kelly Ripa on Cranberry Sauce

Kelly Ripa made an important observation on cranberry sauce this morning on the Live with Regis and Kelly.

Her conversation with Regis went something like this:
Did you know that one tablespoon of canned cranberry sauce has as much sugar as eight doughnuts! You know, I make my own cranberry sauce and no one eats it. If it isn't shaped like a can, they won't eat it.
Okay, I doubt you can pack that much sugar into a tablespoon of cranberry sauce. I don't see how anyone can eat the canned stuff. But her point is well-taken.

Most cranberry sauce is a sugar-laden cranberry-flavored jelly concoction at that. It's a "strained jellied or semi-jellied product prepared from clean, sound, mature cranberries sweetened with high fructose corn syrup/corn sweetener and water," according to USDA.

I don't know what attracts people to canned cranberry sauce. Maybe it's the ridges. Or maybe it's the fact that any real cranberries have been strained out and the remaining sauce jellied.

I'm not a big fan of cranberry sauce. I'd rather top my turkey with braised red cabbage. But I appreciate the effort parents put into introducing children to "real" food. It's a tough battle, but I've found that children respond to old-fashion recipes, especially when you serve them often.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I haven't posted any large quantity cookies recipes recently. This post by Mary at Growlies Recipe Exchange and Party Planning Board reminded me of my father's chocolate chip cookies (and here). Here's what Mary asked:

I need to bake 1,200 chocolate chip cookies. I was looking at the recipe for Big Batch Chocolate chip cookies and it looks like a good place to start. How many times will I need to multiply this recipe?
I advised Mary that I'd would start with the size of her mixer. Unless you have access to a large commercial bakery, I doubt you can fit the dough for 1,200 cookies in one mixing bowl. A 20-quart mixing bowl will yield approximately (at 2/3 of the way full) 32 dozen cookies when using a #30 disher. Using that formula, you'd prepare three to four batches of cookies.

I suppose that you could bake 1,200 cookies in a home kitchen. It'll mix 13 or 14 batches of the cookie dough recipe (which is similar to the big batch recipe she references). With three sheets per oven batch (one-dozen cookies per sheet), that means you'll need to bake about 33 oven loads. Assuming you can bake three loads per hour, you're looking at a 10- to 12-hour job.

I'd turn to a commercial kitchen any time you're looking at massive quantities of food. Locate a kitchen, like a church, non-profit or a rental facility (like the Kitchen Chicago, a shared-use kitchen), if possible. Commercial kitchens are equipped with multiple ovens and large-scale mixers that make a monumental task seem easy.


This recipe is adapted from Wayne Gisslen's Professional Baking, 4th edition (John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, New Jersey, 2005). This recipe will fit inside a 5-quart Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.
12 ounces butter
10 ounces granulated sugar
10 ounces brown sugar
1/4 ounce salt
6 ounces eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 pounds pastry flour
1/4-ounce baking soda
1-1/4 pounds chocolate chips
8 ounces chopped walnuts or pecans

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Cream butter, sugars and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl with paddle attachment at low speed. For light cookies, cream until the mix is light and fluffy. For denser cookies, blend to a smooth paste, but do not cream until light.

Add eggs and vanilla and blend at low speed. Sift in the flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Do not over mix, or gluten will develop.

Drop onto lightly oiled or parchment-lined sheet pans with a #30 disher. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10-14 minutes. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Apple and Red Onion Relish

Isn't it interesting how a photograph attracts you to something? Take this picture of Woods Lake. The idyllic winter setting prompts you to return in July after the snows have melted and the wildflowers are in full bloom.

My reaction to the deep red color of the red onion and apple relish is similar. To me the dish resembled German red cabbage, a holiday side dish that I've loved since childhood. As soon as I saw the picture, I could smell the marriage of the sharp vinegar and sweet apple.

Like many recipes in Christine France's cookbook, The Complete Guide to Making Sauces by (Hermes House: London, 2005), this one comes together quickly. You can prepare the relish in a little more an hour.

You may need to cover your eyes while the onions braise in their own juices. But as they soften into a thick relish, the sharp bite of the onion will mellow into a delicately sweet condiment.

You may find that the relish is a refreshing change from candied cranberry sauce. Use the relish in place of cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving table this week. And it's great as a condiment on ham or turkey sandwiches made with holiday leftovers.


A pinch of salt will help extract the juices from the onion during the first step. Be careful not to brown the relish. You want it to slowly braise in its own juices and the vinegar.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, thinly sliced (about 2 pounds)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar.
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and grated
6 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir in the sugar. Let cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened.

Add apples to the skillet with the vinegar. Continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes until the relish is thick and sticky. Cool and place in an airtight container. It'll keep for a month in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 cups.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Save the Best for Last

This is actually the last photo that I took of Woods Lake yesterday. After walking around the lake's outlet for 30 minutes, I climbed back in the truck and was struck by this view. So, I grabbed my camera from the front seat, stepped back out and drdged melting snow as I took a series of pictures before the light changed.

Shot settings: f/6.7, 1/180 second shutter speed, ISO 100, 54 mm focal length in manual exposure mode.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dessert Dining Facility

A tribute to U.S. Air Force cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

Airman 1st Class Katherine Parker, 386th Expeditionary Services Squadron food services specialist, performs a quality assurance temperature check Nov. 2 here. Airman Parker is deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

U.S. Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder.

Philly Cheesesteak on Watch

A tribute to U.S. Coast Guard cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

April 16, 2007 -- Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Allen prepares meat, as the ship's cook, for philly cheesesteaks to serve at lunch for the crew of the Cutter Sitkinak.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Barry Bena.

Stew for Dinner

A tribute to U.S. Marine cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

May 4, 2007 -- Pfc. Bryant S. Flores picks up diced beef inside the mess hall kitchen at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in preparation for making a stew for dinner. Flores and his fellow Marine cooks took back responsibility for preparing meals at Gonsalves Mess Hall from civilian contractors May 1. The change from civilian to Marine cooks is part of the standard operating procedure at the mess hall in which civilians cook while the Marines are deployed and the Marines cook when back in garrison. Flores, a Long Island, N.Y. native, is a cook with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich.

Chow Time in Iraq

A tribute to U.S. Army cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

Pfc. Emril Getscher, a cook for the 15th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, serves mashed potatoes to Spc. Brendan Murphy, a medic at Combat Outpost Cleary, Iraq.

U.S. Army photograph by Sgt. Natalie Rostek.

Crab Cakes and Pasta for the Crew

A tribute to U.S. Navy cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 5, 2007) - Culinary Specialist Seaman Darrell Gunartt prepares a meal of crab cakes and pasta for the crew in the ship's galley aboard guided missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86). Shoup is part of Carrier Strike Group 9 underway off the coast of Southern California participating in Composite Training Unit Exercise, an exercise designed to enhance the interoperability of the strike group.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.