Friday, November 12, 2010

Invented Recipe 2

People I know who are better cooks than I already have food blogs, but I'm chowing on this right now, and it tastes so autumnal that I feel like sharing. And besides, will the above food blogs provide dehydratable/indefinitely storable recipes for the inevitable zombie apocalypse? I think not.

Butternut Squash Pasta
The butternut squash at the store were huge this week, so this method of preparing them two ways works well.

1 large butternut squash, divided into slightly unequal halves
1 lb small pasta
about 1 lb/4 links chicken sausage with apple
1 onion, minced
4 tbls olive oil
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbls dried sage
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Cut the smaller "half" of the squash, plus the sausage, into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss on a baking sheet with 2 tbls olive oil and the brown sugar, plus salt to season. Roast in a 375 oven until the squash is tender and beginning to caramelize, and the sausage is starting to crisp.

Cook and drain the pasta, preserving about 1 cup of liquid.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the onion in the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Finely chop the larger "half" of the squash in a food processor, and add it to the onion. Add the pasta water, sage, and salt to taste, bring to a simmer, and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the squash starts to fall apart.

Add the heavy cream and the Parmesan, and use a food processor or immersion blender to puree everything until it forms a smooth sauce. Add the pasta, sausage, and roasted squash, and toss everything to cover with the sauce.

I also added a bit of cayenne, but I didn't add quite enough to notice (I have pretty tolerant tastebuds), but I also don't miss it.

The food dehydrator usually takes about 6 hours to do a 4-serving meal like this. To rehydrate pasta dishes, most recipes call to just cover the dehydrated food with water, bring to a boil, and cook until the ingredients are as tender as you want them. This allows for one-pot, no-prep meals. I can imagine myself reanimating this particular recipe on a chilly evening somewhere in Utah and thinking of New England autumn.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

... And You Spend a Night in the Box

I took the opportunity of a lingering coastal storm to test my tent and sleeping bag in the back yard. It was windy, rainy, and in the low 40s F, so chilly but not really cold.

With vestibule. Overexposure is for the protection of copyrighted logos. And 'cause I have a new camera app and don't know how to use it.
Featherworm is awesome. I'm really glad I got the slightly heavier bag with the nifty features, rather than the super-elite ultra-light, because the features really make the thing. My favorite is a little extra flap that snaps closed around your shoulders, with a drawstring to cinch it. This keeps the bag closed and warm when it's cold enough to snuggle down, but not cold enough for the hood (and I don't like using the hoods--even when it's straight-up cold, I like having my face and ears free). And when it's a bit warmer, closing the snap-flap allows you to unzip the bag for a bit of ventilation without the bag flopping open and leaving you totally uncovered. The bag also has this little zip pocket near the opening that's so tiny that I can't imagine what I might put in there. It's too small for my glasses--the thing I really want to have safe and accessible while I sleep. Batteries? Nips? I'll think of something.

The tent, from a construction standpoint, did just fine. It was fairly windy, and rained quite a bit last night (though never particularly hard) and everything stayed in-place and dry. It was also a cinch to set up, even with the adjustments I had to make in the dark . . .

Vestibule open. This morning, I realized the footprint was backwards, causing the wrinkling under the door. The tent is very slightly asymmetrical front-to-back; just enough so if you do it wrong, everything assembles just fine, but then doesn't quite work.
One of the selling points of the tent was that it has a convertible door on the rain fly. You can go with the vestibule if you need more room, or you can zip it out and exchange it for a flat door if you want to save weight. I was thinking the door was the way to go, since I'm only one person, and I'll have space to store stuff inside the tent. But the door isn't designed particularly well. It ends a couple inches from the ground, and it lies close over the tent wall--there's no way to stake it out, barring poking a hole in the fabric. So when it rains, water drips from the fly  onto the wall of the tent below the door, where it eventually ends up dribbling between the tent and the footprint. While the bottom of the tent doesn't leak, this just doesn't seem like a good policy.

I set up the tent, with the flat door, in a break in the rain around dusk. I went out to sleep at my normal bedtime, at which point it was full-on raining. I saw what was going on with the door and switched it out with the vestibule. As with the rest of the tent, this was simple and intuitive and took all of like six seconds, during which I discovered the other slight design flaw with the door/vestibule system. The zipper to exchange the two runs up and over the door of the tent. The door of the tent is mesh. So if you unzip the thing while the rain fly is wet, drips will fall onto--and, of course, through--the mesh door of the tent, sprinkling your sleeping bag and clothes and whatever.

So I've learned a couple things. Vestibule is the way to go--and is a very nice place to put wet shoes, whether there's room in the tent or not. Also, tap all the drips off the rain fly before unzipping anything. Luckily, these issues seem easily solved.

My morning view. The November windstorm cleaned the trees before blowing offshore.
WARNING: This is a pre-coffee photo.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, Please!

A few days ago, I was mentally toying with the trip's schedule. I wondered if it might be better to switch the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau. I could avoid some really serious snow if I head straight for Yosemite after the Grand Canyon trip ends in October, and I'd spend January and February in Utah, where conditions are usually dry, if not mild.

But then I found this. The Ahwahnee Hotel hosts some culinary awesomeness in January and February, and it doesn't cost that much more than the luxury room I was hoping to splurge on anyway. They don't have a schedule for 2012 yet, but I'm willing to nail down a reservation once they do. It sounds like a totally delicious and fun break from camping! Plus it will give me an excuse to pack at least one gala-worthy outfit.

And: I know this is totally ridiculous, but I've named my sleeping bag. Its (his? what gender would a woman's sleeping bag be?) full name is Weatherfirm Featherworm, but I pretty much go with Featherworm for short.

And: I am a nerd.