Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries and How to Use A lot of Zucchini

                           Spiralized sweet potato "fries" roasted at 425. Recipe below. 
I rarely get so excited about a kitchen gadget that I promote it. I'm not saying that just because I'm smitten with the spiralizer, you should run right out and buy one. It took me a year to respond, with my credit card, to a friend who alerted me to this clever device that is now my second best friend in the kitchen, my bestie being my food processor,which happens to be a Cuisinart.

My friend even loaned me her spiralizer because she was certain that if I used it, I would rush forth with the plastic card. I  admit I didn't even try the damn thing before returning it to her. Why? I was attempting to purge possessions, not accumulate them. Also, as I saw it, the spiralizer would hog a significant chunk of kitchen storage and be just another piece of plastic about which to feel guilt and remorse. So I returned it to my friend saying, thanks, but no thanks. 

Then zucchini season reared up. As usual, I gave away or tossed into the compost an embarrassing poundage of zucchini flesh. (Somehow, we always have way too much zucchini, even when we limit ourselves to two or three plants.) Then I remembered the spiralizer, and in desperation, used Amazon Prime to have one delivered within a couple days. And then the fun began! The poor neighbors, and others upon whom I'd foisted excess produce, no longer had to feign enthusiasm for zucchini; I actually was able to use most of it. Yes. We ate a TON of zucchini, but as noodles, and somehow, that makes a difference.
This is my Padrone spiralizer with a perfect zucchini transformed into noodles. You don't think zucchini noodles will cut the mustard? I was worried, as PK is a skinny bastard who doesn't need to cut carbs or calories and is sorta turned off by veggie noodles, and I am a hanging on for-dear-life-to a-reasonable-weight-70-year-old-size 12. Fortunately, I'm, not yet in a vegetative state. We reached a compromise with a 2/3 zuke and 1/3 "real" pasta blend. I later got rid of the "real"pasta, and he failed to notice.
Zucchini noodles quick frying in a little olive oil and salt.
Zuke noodles are joined by cooked "real" noodles. The zuke noodles came from a large zucchini while the pasta was a scant handful before it was boiled. Obviously, the pasta swells and the zucchini shrinks. This is indicative of what happens when we eat pasta (swell) and when we eat zucchini (shrink.)
The real pasta boils on the back burner as I test the zucchini noodles for "al dente" with  a hand which appears to be on loan from a wax museum, 

Obviously, the pasta swells and the zucchini shrinks. This is indicative of what happens when we eat pasta (swell) and when we eat zucchini (shrink.)

Zucchini was the obvious first choice for veggie noodles, but once the zucchini plants up and died, I moved on to potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets. And according to food bloggers, I'm just getting started. For recipes and in-depth info, check out this blog and get a steady stream of recipes and ways to use the spiralizer. In addition to noodles, it can also slice veggies into thin rounds.

The sweet potato fries are great! Easy, tasty, nutritious. Here they are with a salmon patty sandwich and a green salad with avocado. Recipe below.
The spiralizer seems to work best with firm veggies 3-4 inches in diameter. Cut them into lengths of six or seven inches, or more, depending upon your model. The Paderno is good and costs around $35. I like it because it has super good suction to hold it in place while processing, comes with three interchangeable blades, and is easy to use and to clean. 
The object in the forefront is what's left of a sweet potato after spiralizing—a stump and a core. The pile of noodles is atop parchment paper on a baking sheet almost ready to pop into the oven. All it needs is a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. 

For two hungry people
  • 1 large sweet potato. Choose one that is relatively straight and about 3 to 3.5 inches in diameter.
  • olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pepper flakes, optional


Preheat the oven to 425.
Spiralize the sweet potato. You will need to cut it to fit for spiralizing.
Snip the noodles into lengths of your choice, or not.(Some people love long curly fries, but they take longer to roast and may not cook as evenly as snipped noodles.)

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the oiled noodles over the paper and salt and pepper to taste. Add pepper flakes if you like them. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, then check for doneness. Use tongs to turn, and roast another 10 minutes, watching closely so they don't burn.

The sweet potatoes may also be fried, preferably in a cast-iron skillet. But this requires closer attention and more oil. However, the fries will be crunchier.

Ready to try a spiralizer? You can't go wrong.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

New Terriitory on the Oregon Coast with Four Wheel Camper and Friends - plus a Secret

What is it about oceans that makes us feel like masters of the universe? Who isn't spellbound by the surf and surge, the soaring seabirds and the deep sea beings, so close and yet a world away. Here friend Dave Frank gathers power and beauty, drama and danger, as he attempts to command  the Pacific Ocean. 

Usually PK and I head to coast alone, but in early October we joined a group of 12 in the Humbug Mountain/Port Orford area of the Southern Oregon coast. Basking here in the late afternoon sun with margaritas,  burritos, and old friends, we couldn't be more warmed.
For 40-some years, PK and I have traveled to the Oregon coast. It's where we met in the 1970s, and where we return periodically to refuel. We did so in early October, and as we made the return trip to our inland Rogue Valley home, we reveled once again in our good fortune to live so close to an ultimate power place—the Pacific Ocean's interface with the wild Oregon shore.

I say "wild" because the Southern Oregon shore, in addition to being relatively undeveloped,  belongs to everyone. In Oregon, not even Donald Trump can own a beach or block access to one. Since the Beach Bill  became law in 1967, all 362 miles of Oregon coast is open territory. If you can drive or walk there, it's yours. Is that great, or what?

As usual, we traveled in our little Four-Wheel Camper clamped onto an aging Toyota Tundra. Also as usual, when we stay in developed campgrounds such as the Oregon State Park's Humbug Mountain campground, we brought down the neighborhood.

With a pop-up camper, no matter how deluxe we think it is, we rank just a notch above tent dwellers, who are usually segregated without electricity, water hook-ups, or, of course, sewer connection.  (At this campground, however, the tent sites were the only ones on the creek! The fact that the creek was without water doesn't matter. Tent camping is encouraged in Oregon!) Directly across the camp road, however, we were hunkered amidst mammoth RVs. I have no problem with big RVs, but I don't want one.

Honestly, PK and I are a bit smug about our little 4WC. When we hear the generators rev up and catch the sterile glimmer of television screens, and people actually walking around in those those big boxes on wheels, we congratulate one another as we suck in our guts and co-exist in our roughly four-feet long, two-feet wide floorspace. The 4WC isn't for everyone, but for people like us who camped in tents for umpteen years, it is extravagant. It is bliss. It is luxury.

Our grandkids LOVE the 4WC. No sooner do we set up in their backyard than they're all over it. As you can see, we lack a dance floor, but we do enjoy a refrigerator/freezer, sink, 2-burner stove, furnace, queen-sized bed, and a decent sound system. And lights. And did I say heat? And an outside shower. And an awning.  Let's not talk about the toilet, though. Nothing to talk about.
Back to the beach. We have our favorite spots, including this overlook on the Indian Sands trail just north of Brookings.
We've hiked the steep trail to get to this view 20+ times. When we were younger, we skirted the edge of a rocky path with a straight shot to the crazy surging boils 25 feet below. We now enjoy danger from a distance, where a stumble doesn't necessarily mean certain death. 
But on this trip we discovered new wonders that somehow eluded us on previous visits, such as....

We'd never camped at Humbug Mountain, although we climbed to the top of the mountain years ago. And although we'd rented a motel room a couple times in nearby Port Orford, we had never set foot on this Port Orford beach, which is terrifying It's one of those super steep sloped beaches with huge waves that you don't want to play chicken with. Go there and be alone with the wind, sand, and robust waves. Take a little bag for your agates. Don't wade into the surf.
  Locals call it Agate Beach, but Tseriadun is the official name.
 Watch for sneaker waves! Also agates just lying about.
The Port Orford Lifeboat Station museum and associated trails are not to be missed if you have any interest whatsoever in how the early Coast Guard rescued ship-wreck survivors in this treacherous stretch of coast, and also how they lived in a structure that is now a museum. Even if you don't have an interest, you may develop one visiting the museum and trails.
 This tiny sheltered cove served as the Coast Guard's harbor during the years strong brave guys braved treacherous conditions to rescue victims of frequent shipwrecks. If you're going through Port Orford, take time for the museum and a short walk to see this cove, and......a trail along the bluff that leads to sights such as......
     Seals sunning themselves in perfect states of lethargy. We were mesmerized by them and also ....
Whales! Or maybe only one whale, which cavorted near the seal-covered rocks.

From Grants Pass, Port Orford is 153 miles, a three-hour drive.
Just up Hwy. 101 from Port Orford is Cape Blanco, the western-most point on the Oregon coast, where a lighthouse still beams and friendly volunteers will tell you that the lighthouse stairs are no longer safe since a recent minor offshore earthquake resulted in a lighthouse crack. New to me were the great trails and incredible views above and beyond the lighthouse.
Smart (older) hikers bring hiking poles when walking sometimes-steep-and-rocky coastal trails, 

A new-to-me beach on Cape Blanco within  sight of the lighthouse. Gail Frank leads the way.

The Secret
Fall is the best time on the southern Oregon coast, and don't discount winter; watch the forecast for winter weather windows. 

Unless you live within a few hours of the Southern Oregon coast, you may not be able to take advantage of counter-intuitive realities; late fall and winter can be the best times to visit. Unless you're a surfer with a wetsuit, the Oregon coast is not for swimming and sunbathing. It is all about drama and grandeur with breathtaking vistas and myriad hiking ops. If you can, skip the crowds, visit during the off season and enjoy the "Brookings Effect" which renders the southern-most Oregon coast mild and dry while rain prevails elsewhere.
This blazing sun visited the Southern Oregon coast on December 15, 2013. It was 70 degrees for two days in a row!  Off-season rates, empty beaches and big show-off winter surf  made this one of our best coast trips ever. Mid-summer heat waves in the inland valleys often mean coastal fog during what are usually considered prime vacation travel months - July and August. Not here.
A  December sun sets in Gold Beach, Oregon.