Today, I’m okay that it’s Fall. School has started and my work schedule has regulated a bit. Pumpkins and apples are in season and I’ve got beautiful red, orange and golden-yellow mums on my front porch. All the peppers are pickled (see my new post on 20Food), the jam is jarred, and the broccoli is frozen. We are headed to the last Twins game of the season tonight. It’s been a fantastic summer full of growing, cooking, camping, writing, working, and friends. But, just as the garden has slowed down this week, so have things for me.
Fall always comes at the perfect time. It’s a stop in the breakneck pace of summer when we’re all in need of rest but are too busy in the bounty and fun to realize it. Fall sounds the warning bell. Tells us to slow down and be grateful, harsh changes are coming. Appreciate the last few days of warm weather, soon we’ll be excited about hitting 20°. Enjoy the crisp autumn mornings, bitter cold ones are on the way. Put on your scarf and sweaters with enthusiasm; they are so much better than the long underwear and snow boots we’ll all be sporting. Savor the last fresh vegetables stacked up at the market, it’ll be a few months before they appear again. Take it all in now Minnesota, it’s nearly time for hibernation.
Last fall, one of my small friends introduced me to butternut squash chips. Sliced thin on a mandolin and gently fried in sunflower oil, this little guy would literally stand at the stove waiting for more. As hard as I tried to re-create them the same way his mom (and Tyler Florence) can, I couldn’t do it. I bet I made no less than 10 squash into either smush piles or a burnt, oily mess last fall. I finally resigned to my Whole Grain Milling tortilla chip. There just aren’t that many choices for a locavore who wants to get their crunchy, salty, junk food on.
Kale chips are not a new thing to the foodie world, but they are a new thing in my kitchen. After last year’s disappointment with the squash, when I saw the kale at the farmers’ market on Sunday I knew I was ready to make a veggie chip comeback. My first batch was completely burned. Charcoal black and smoking when I pulled it out of the oven. Not a great start, but an easy fix. I adjusted the oven temperature lower, reduced the cooking time, and checked a little more closely for towards the end.
No…they aren’t a classic potato chip and they don’t have the same savory crunch as the butternut squash chips. But if you’re new to kale, or not sure what it’s good for besides garnish, this recipe is a good place to start.
1 bunch of kale
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Wash kale and thoroughly dry. Tear leaves from stalks and rip into large pieces. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to evenly coat. Spread in an even layer on sheet and sprinkle with parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon half way through baking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
I owe South Dakota a huge apology. When the kitchen partner and I planned our vacation, our stop in South Dakota was a sidebar/afterthought to the scenery and adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Just a stop for the night, catch the monument in the morning and be on our way back to Minnesota. Little did I know, our stop at Mount Rushmore was my favorite, our trip underground at Jewel Cave was the kitchen partner’s favorite, and we found more local products here than anywhere else! Sorry, South Dakota. You were way more fantastic than I gave you credit for.
Here’s 3 things I didn’t know about South Dakota:
1. The evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore is absolutely stunning. Still gives me goosebumps to write about it more than a week later. If you ever feel less-than-faithful in our democratic system, or need a reminder about how influential four individuals–with strong vision and determination–can be, pack up your stuff and drive to Keystone, SD and see this. 8 P.M. every night, May to October.
2. Just outside Custer, SD is Jewel Cave National Monument, a geological research site protected by the National Park Service. The kitchen partner and I went spelunking on a guided tour and were totally blown away. Get this: Right now, the cave is 155 miles long (2nd longest in the world). That’s only the distance they have currently mapped, however geologists estimate it could be up to 5,000 miles long. Each year they are able to map about 4-5 more miles of the cave; it takes cavers about 17 hours to reach the point they are currently mapping. Woah South Dakota. Who knew you had an undiscovered frontier?
3. You can now buy South Dakota wine and local buffalo burgers, sausages, and chili at the Mount Rushmore dining facility, Carvers’ Cafe. The kitchen partner and I were visiting early in the day so we didn’t stop for a tasting, but it’s nice to see that there’s South Dakota Locavores too! The Rushmore Red is bottled by Valiant Vineyards Winery in Vermillion, SD. Way to go, South Dakota!
Number 8 on my birthday list of things to happen this year was to see the sun rise and set on the same day in Yellowstone N.P. Check that off the list:
Don’t be deceived. The only reason I am in the car and awake for a sunrise (before 6:30) while on vacation is because the temperature is a balmy 29° F. Too cold to stand outside the tent and make breakfast. Just get dressed, get in the car and drive through the park. Stop for breakfast when I have feeling in my toes again. Hike and sight-see all day. End the day with this:
Seeing gorgeous sunsets over the tops of the trees around our campsite was fantastic. A warning though: the sunny, warm day quickly disappears when the sun goes down. Temps drop from the 60′s to the 30′s in a hurry!
Between the sunrise and sunset, we managed to catch Old Faithful in action 3 different times from 3 different viewpoints:
And we had a tortellini tomato soup for dinner, a perfect warm meal to cozy around the campfire with. The ingredients are half-way local and half-way shelf-stable. Throw them in a pot and watch the sun go down. We watched our dinner guest who visited every evening just as we sat down to eat:
Apparently my cooking (or the grass around our tent) must smell really good.
1. Place soup, diced tomatoes, water and zucchini in a pot over a medium flame. Heat until boiling. Add pasta and cook 10-15 minutes or until tortellini are soft. Top with parmesan. Serve while elk watching.
I actually have time for a few hours to sit down and write this afternoon?
Whose life is this, and what did you do with my crazy/chaotic/stressful week back to work?
Ah…The afternoon to myself. Glorious. Enough time to finish editing the photos from the trip and plaster them in a Shutterfly book. Can I just say, I really want to go back here:
The kitchen partner took that one. Pretty soon he and I are going to each need our own cameras on vacation. Bummer that at 8000 feet, there’s no one to whine: “But he just won’t SHARE it with me…He NEVER lets me have a turn…It’s just not fair!” Even though he doesn’t always share, I do always find some gorgeous photos when I upload them after:
Plus, he always spots some of the more “interesting” wildlife:
In this vacation relationship, I’m just here to make the food (and to make sure we visit all the tourist traps) anyway. He’s here to make sure my most ridiculous moments are captured for eternity. Classy Amy. Real classy. But at least the food is good. For one of our dinners on the camp stove last week I used this for inspiration:
to put together this:
I wont re-post the ingredients or instructions since Backpacker’s are golden. Watch the video and you’ll be set on the how-to’s. I do have some suggestions though:
Skip the turkey pepperoni and opt for REAL turkey. Turkey pepperoni and locavore don’t exactly fit together. Anyone who has read the label on a package of turkey pepperoni will know what I mean. Fully cooked, shredded chicken or turkey works wonders. As does a fully cooked, sliced italian sausage. Or veggies.
Replace some of the sauce with a fresh tomato if there’s room in your pack. Yum.
Divide the dough in half and make two pizzas. Our pan may have been smaller than Backpacker’s, but the dough was pretty thick for my taste. It was also tricky to evenly cook it with a full package in the pan. Ended up with some gummy spots, some crunchy.