Chasing Waterfalls in the Rain
My brother and I spent a Sunday driving around south-central and south-eastern Minnesota, hunting down waterfalls. We made our way to three of them. Though the first, Minnemishinona falls, was barely a trickle. It probably would have taken 5 minutes to fill a glass of water. Which is too bad, because it was a nice drop of 40 feet or so. It had carved a really awesome looking, narrow valley that we did not venture down in to, due to the slippery, wet, muddy, nearly vertical slopes. I didn’t even take a picture of it, just the walking bridge spanning the top of the gorge.
Making a swift departure, we headed to another waterfall near by in Minneopa State Park. Upon arrival, we made note of the depressing signs that stated the water was unsafe to enter, the D.N.R. had found “dangerous levels of fecal parasites” in the river. After a short walk through the picnic area, the first drop of this two-step falls was before us. What a pretty little area! I set up My tripod, with My camera wrapped in plastic and popped off a dozen long exposures of the flowing water. Constantly looking over My shoulder at the drop off, a few feet behind Me, I tried not to rush. The rain got a bit lighter and satisfied that I had captured some gems, I headed across the foot bridge, wandering along the path where I found My brother gawking at the view. The second part of the falls, gushing down in to the valley below was quite awesome! I took a couple more pictures and started looking for a way down to the base of the it. Strolling off the the trail, down the muddy hill, we found a nice place to view the area and paused to take it all in.
After that, we departed the Mankato area and started wandering to the east. We picked a random dirt road to head down and found ourselves wishing we didn’t live in the city. The rocky out crops gave way to the rolling hills of southern Minnesota’s farm land. Every time I find Myself in such areas, I feel compelled to migrate out of the Twin Cities. The country calls, beckoning one to come and take in the natural state of things, or to plant all of the flowers, fruit and veggies that one loves. We didn’t really explore much, as the rain had picked up again. But I can’t go anywhere without taking a picture, or two…
Proceeding ever eastward, we found ourselves back on Interstate 35. The gateway home. Then turned off of it, just south of Elko. I had heard of a waterfall at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park and couldn’t help but to investigate. We parked in the lot, I wrapped the camera in plastic once more and we strolled through half a mile of the lushest greens I’ve ever witnessed in a forest. It was seriously gorgeous! The little waterfall at the end of our walk was also quite pretty. Hidden Falls, as they call it, is about an eight foot drop, it’s extremely straight and squared off. If someone told You it was man made, it wouldn’t be a suprise. It isn’t though, the stream just happened to carve the rock away in straight lines. The incredible layers of green growth everywhere just added to the majesty of this place. My brother immediately walked out to in to the stream and stood above the falls. I told him to hold perfectly still for 5 seconds, which made for a pretty nice picture. We spent about an hour walking circles around it before My batteries ran dry. So we hiked back to the car and rode the concrete river back to the city. Already missing the rural views that we had been taking in all day… I want to go back soon!
Stir Fry: Harvest Special
I didn’t grow a ton of veggies in the garden this year. I did have a substantial carrot patch, a mix of Touchon and Purple Dragons. I also had a pair of Fairy Tale eggplants, some Pablano peppers and a good amount of Tatsoi bak choi. Needless to say, all of these things came to meet one another in My wok. With a few additions, a very nice meal was spawned. There is just nothing better than garden fresh food! Here is what I did for the first meal after harvest. Paired with rice, noodles, or bread, this recipe serves two ravenous teenagers, or four average appetites.
Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.
1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
3-4 large carrots, chopped into pieces no more than a quarter inch thick
4 small eggplants, sliced about a quarter inch thick(Kamo eggplants are best for frying)
1 large onion, chopped to Your liking
2 pablano peppers, diced
1 head of bak choi, stems removed(about 30, 3-4 inch leaves)
a quarter cup of dry sherry
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bacon grease(I love bacon grease!), or Your choice of cooking oil.
Prep and Cooking:
Mix the sherry, lemon juice, hoisin and pablano peppers in a large bowl, or zip-lock bag. Add the pork and let marinate for at least 30 minutes(over night is best). Over medium-high heat, stir fry the carrots until they reach Your desired texture and remove from pan. Then stir fry the eggplants with black pepper and a pinch of salt and set aside as well. Now start cooking the onions, when they start to turn translucent, turn the heat to high and add the pork and liquid mixture. Stir fry on high until the meat is done cooking, then reduce heat to medium and stir in the bak choi. Then, turn off the burner and mix everything together. Plate and serve!
Obviously, nearly any meat will work with this recipe.
Pablano peppers are really mild, this is not a spicy dish…
If using mock duck, marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Add the liquid marinade to the onions and let it thicken a little, before adding the mock duck to the fry pan.
Running short on time? Skip the marinating part, simply put the liquids and peppers in the pan when You go to cook the meat. It will still taste great, but the meat won’t be quite as flavorful.
Most varieties of eggplant will cook VERY fast and fall apart, becoming mush. Which is why I suggest Kamo eggplants, which hold their texture very well compared to every other variety. If using another kind of eggplant, You must pay close attention to the texture, once You can dent it with Your finger, remove from the pan immediately. Some eggplants are very moist inside, laying them on a dry towel or napkin after slicing(before cooking) can dry them a bit and thus help keep them from disintegrating as You cook.
You can use the bak choi stems if You like. Chop them up like onions and fry until tender after You cook the eggplant.
Cooking each ingredient separately helps mix up the flavors that hit Your tongue. You can indeed cook the carrots and onions together, then add the eggplant and meat. Stir frying till everything is done, but You end up with a more uniform flavor, which is good, but lacks the depth of each ingredient. You also have more control over the texture of each thing when cooking them solo…
I admit to using too much bacon fat in making this one. You may have noticed by the glossy nature in the photo… It was delicious though!
Pulled Pork Sandwich, Assemble!
This was just My second attempt to make pulled pork. As You can see, I went in to geek mode with My camera. Just a little bit anyways. The lighting in My kitchen is pretty poor, even by the windows, so I will likely try this animation again sometime with a better lighting arrangment. Using whole wheat hot dog buns, bak choi picked fresh from the garden, diced onions and barbeque sauce, these sandwiches came together quite well.
The hours I work have My schedule a bit off from most peoples. I go to bed around five in the morning and wake up around noon. So I started the pork in My Instapot when I went to bed and it was done when I woke up the next day. The first time, I started it before I went to work and it was ready and waiting for Me when I got home. I do love the set it and forget it style of cooking involved with making this tasty, meaty, dish.
To make the pulled pork, You will need a slow cooker, such as a crock pot, adjustable rice cooker, or sommething of that nature. A three to four pound pork shoulder, or butt. Sprinkle 2+ tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt, 4 tbsp cajun spice blend and a third of a cup of tightly packed brown suger all over the out sides of the meat. Put an onion or two, peeled and halved into the bottom of You crock pot, along with a third of a cup of dry sherry, 2 long sprigs of thyme and two large cloves of garlic. Then place the pork on top, cover and slow cook for 6 to 8 hours. Once the meat is super tender and falling apart, remove it from the cooker and use a pair of forks to pull, or shred the pork, removing and fatty chunks and bones as You go. Serve it with Your favorite side dishes, or make sandwiches, wraps, or even eat it all by it’s self. There should be plenty of juices in the bottom of the pot, add some to the pulled meat to keep it moist and flavorful, especially if You are refridgerating some of it for later.
Ramen, Lovely Ramen
United Noodles is a bit of a back alley grocery store. Specializing in foods from nearly all corners of asia, they are one of the oldest asian grocers in the Twin Cities. Within this store is another store, a small deli. Called Uni Deli, this place has an extremely short menu, but that is okay, because one of the eight things listed for You to have served hot and delicious is Tonkatsu Ramen. Oh My, I had not been there in about a year and My taste buds have been blown away again. How do I forget to keep going back for more? If You go there and do not order tonkatsu, You are missing out. Order it spicy, simply the best.
Bacon, Spinach and Shrimp
I’ve been told, several times, that this is the best thing I have ever cooked.. . A couple of weeks ago, I had some friends over for some bbq chicken and fried rice. One of which hit Me up the next day, thanking Me for serving some “yummy stuff,” which inspired Her to want to make “some bomb @$# food, like that bacon, shrimp, spinach thing You use to do.” So here We are, one of an endless stream of recipes that I had completely forgotten. Having made something like it twice in the time since this conversation, I find Myself wondering how such a recipe could have fallen out of the regular rotation. Why am I not eating this all the time!?
This is in fact, pretty much the same flavor arrangement as ‘Manated Pork with Peas,’ which can be found by scrolling down through this blog. Less the pork and onion, adding bacon, spinach and shrimp! I told You it’s versatile! Although, many ingredient changes, also require a change in cooking method.. I must also point out, that I never measure when seasoning things. To Me, cooking something slightly different, every time You cook it, is a huge part of the joy and fun in that which We call food. Thus, all quantities listed in My recipes are guesstimations, but should provide a solid starting point.. Please do leave some commentary should You give this one a try.
Supplies Needed: A wok or large fry pan, cutting board and knife/you can get by with just a mincer, also a small sauce pan, like You would boil a single pack of ramen in…
1 pound of shrimps, steamed or boiled lightly
one third of a pound of bacon, sliced or chopped however You like
a bag of spinach, at least enough to make salad for 4 people
Half a bag of frozen sugar snap peas, thawed
4 tbsp of fresh ginger root, minced
2 tbsp of garlic, minced
6 inches or so of fresh lemongrass, at least half an inch thick, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
1/4 cup of cooking sherry
1-2 tbsp of soy sauce
2-3 tbsp of ketcup(optional, but it adds a lot)
1 or so tbsp of sugar, just enough to take the edge off the sour/bitter ingrdients
1 tsp mild chili pepper powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Prep and Cooking:
Over low to medium heat, mix all but the peas, bacon, spinach and shrimp in the small sauce pot, stirring as often as possible, until it has thickened into a nice sauce. Remove from heat, toss the chunks of lemongrass and keep stirring until You are ready to add it to the rest of the ingredients. At the same time You begin cooking the sauce, fry the bacon on medium heat in a wok or sizable skillet, remove from the pan once cooked to Your liking. Then, toss the sugar snap peas and a fist-full of spinach into the bacon grease, stirring constantly, adding the spinach one fist-full at a time. Keep it up until You’ve used about three quarters of the spinach and remove from the pan. This should only take 30 seconds to a minute. Turn the burner to high heat and toss the shrimps into the remaining bacon grease, fry for 20 to 30 seconds, depending on size. Remove from the pan and turn off the burner, add the bacon and cooked veggies back into the pan, mixing vigorously. Now You can also add the sauce and remaining spinach, or plate the food and distribute them between each serving. Time to eat!
The key to this dish is to privide spinach, in three textures, fully cooked, partially cooked and raw. Hence the process of adding it a bit at a time. Hoisin sauce was not part of the origianl recipe, srirachi works quite well as a replacement. I almost always make this with a nice spicy kick!
You can also mince the lemongrass, but it MUST be broken down very finely. You can also buy lemongrass in frozen, pre-minced form as well as puree’d in a tube. I would use 2 or so tablespons of such options instead of a fresh stalk.
To cook this all in one pan, start by frying the bacon and shrimp, as described above. Remove them and start making the sauce. Once it’s almost thickened up, add the peas and commense the spinach application process. Mix everything back into the pan and You are done.. You’ll have to have thawed the peas for this method, or the sauce will be runny, which is fine by Me. This is the lazy method, the flavors become more of a blur, but it’s still damn good.
July 9, 2013 ***UPDATE ***
Last night I made a variation of this recipe with bak choi instead of peas and spinach. It was delicious. I made the sauce in one pan and stir fried everything else in another, while the sauce thickened. The bak choi stems were a really nice texture and the light flavor helped temper the powerful chunky sauce. I simply fried them in the bacon grease and added the green, leafy parts and some green onions once the stems were just starting to soften. A truely great dinner.