Best Camping Food Ever

July 2nd, 2010 by Justin | Comments Off on Best Camping Food Ever | Filed in Meals

This is my favorite camping food … ever!  I’m not talking about s’mores, and hot dogs don’t even rank.  I learned this one way back when I was a Boy Scout, and it’s the foil bag roast.  After all, just because our sleeping arrangements may  be spartan (some of us anyway), doesn’t mean we have to eat that way too.


  • 2 lbs steak, cut of your choice, cubed
  • 2 potatoes, cubed small
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 bushel cilantro, shredded
  • 1 bushel green onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic (hell ya…or less if you’re like that), diced finely
  • Worcestershire, A1, BBQ, and Tabasco sauce
  • Basil, salt and pepper, to taste


The magic is to prepare this before you leave for your trip. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.  You’ll need enough of the sauces to coast all of the other ingredients.

Pour all of this into a large freezer bag and throw it in the ice chest.  This will keep for a couple of days, but of course, the longer you let it sit, the better.  I usually cook it on the second night, served with rolls and shredded cheese.

To cook, portion out the mixture onto long sheets of doubled-over foil.  Wrap up each portion snug, and place it around the fire at the edge of the coals or on the grill if your fire pit is so equipped.  You’ll need some tongs or expert giant chop stick skills.

Cooking time will vary depending on the heat of your fire and how close you have the packets to the heat.  I find that it normally takes about 20 to 25 minutes.  Of course you could cook this at home too, but where’s the fun in that?  Probably around 350 degrees, that’s where.

Anyone have any camping favorites that they want to share?  I’m curious to know what other people like to make when they’re in the great outdoors.

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Stone Fresh Dinner – May 2010

May 7th, 2010 by Justin | Comments Off on Stone Fresh Dinner – May 2010 | Filed in Countries

Another Fresh Dinner at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens has come and gone, and once again, “epic” describes it rather adeptly.

If you missed my last review, then a little explanation is in order.  Stone holds a special, seasonal dinner event that features fresh, organic, local food from surrounding farms and fisheries.  They begin harvesting early in the morning, working a rather long day, to provide what is likely the best meal that most people will have that season.  Their hard work is greatly appreciated.  For $50.00 a person, it simply can’t be beat.  So without any further hubbub, here’s the menu.

1st Course: Charred Sardines Marinated in Lemon Juice, Herbs, and Olive Oil with Microgreens

  • San Diego Bay Sardines from Pacific Shellfish
  • Meyer Lemons from Crows Pass Farm
  • Microgreens from Connelly Gardens

The general consensus at the whole table, and not even just our party, was, “Damn, sardines.”  But they were gone just as soon as they came.  Most American’s aren’t that interested in these little, salty fish, and I’m not exception.  I think the key was that the marinade really helped to break down the typically overpowering fishy taste.  I have to say, I’ve never had such tasty sardines.  Seriously, they were gone in minutes.

2nd Course: Grilled Purple Artichokes and Vegetable Medley with Marinated Radishes and Maltaise Sauce

  • Artichokes from Connelly Gardens
  • Fennel, onions, squash and radishes from Sozie’s Farm
  • Eggs from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch

No surprises here: everyone liked this dish.  The big star for most people was the maltaise sauce, which was, without a doubt, fantastic.  However, I love me some roots, and when you grill them, it’s all over.  The fennel and onion were so great, that I cleaned up after everyone else.

Served with Dinner: Thyme Rolls with Lavender Butter

  • Estate herbs from Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Nothing too fancy here, but delicious none the less.  The rolls were perfectly soft on the inside, yet crusty on the outside. As for the butter, whenever you got a piece of the lavender, the flavor was awesome.

Entree: Spaetzle with Blazei Mushrooms, Onions, Fava Beans and Seasonal Greens

  • Blazei mushrooms from Mushroom Meadows
  • Temecula honey onions from Crows Pass Farm
  • Fava beans and greens from La Milpa Organica

I have to admit, I wasn’t paying close attention to what Executive Chef Alex Carballo was saying about this dish so I was quite surprised when I learned the twist. I’m eating this thinking, “Wow,  I wonder why they added so much almond to this…but there are no almond on the menu.”  Then Sherelle, my fiancee, filled me in on what I had missed.  The almond taste comes from blazei mushroom.  Very strange and unexpected coming from a mushroom, but definitely delicious, especially when composed with the chicken in the following dish.  And by the way, the only place this mushroom is cultivated in the US is at Mushroom Meadows.

Entree: Smoked Chicken Halves Marinated in Citrus Juice, Olive Oil and Herb Emulsion over Arugula

  • Chicken from Wing Lee Poultry
  • Three varieties of lemons from Crows Pass Farm
  • Estate herbs from Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
  • Arugula from La Mipla Organica

I absolutely destroyed this chicken. Destroyed. I had between 5 and 7 pieces. It never stood a chance.  Even though a few were slightly over cooked, that’s how good it was.  I’m not complaining about the done-ness either.  Chicken can be a bastard and will do that to you sometimes, especially when you’re making that much of it. Kudos chef.

Dessert: Strawberries Pavlova with African Blue Basil

  • Strawberries from Crows Pass Farm
  • Eggs from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch
  • Basil from Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

If they served heaping platters of this dessert, like they did with the chicken, I would have had 5 to 7 servings of this too.  Not many people in my party ate their basil though, but that’s their loss.  African basil is some of the best basil I’ve ever had.  I’ll have to figure out if can grow my own.

All in all, a great dinner and everyone left full, content and somehow, still salivating.  Here are a few of the pictures that I took.  More can be seen on Stone’s flickr

Turkey Tetrazzini – Holiday Left Overs Part 1

December 7th, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Turkey Tetrazzini – Holiday Left Overs Part 1 | Filed in Italian, Meals

Turkey only comes once a year for me.  So, when it does come, it’s a big deal—a very big deal.   Scavenging pounds of left over turkey from various families is my own little holiday tradition.  After all the left over mash and stuffing has run out and turkey sandwiches have run their course, I still had a lot of turkey on my hands.  I poked around a bit to find a good recipe to make good use of my Thanksgiving leftovers.  I found Turkey Tetrazzini and added my own variations.  Everyone was very pleased and I hope you will be too.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini


  • 6 oz porcini or crimini (Italian brown) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 leek, quartered and diced
  • 3 large carrots or 5 small carrots sliced
  • 3.5 oz sun dried tomatoes (1 package), diced
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, bit size
  • 1 pkg spaghetti, linguini, penne or ziti
  • 1 wedge Parmesan (9-10 oz.), shredded (oh yes, the whole damn thing)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp almonds, sliced (optional)

For the sauce:

  • 2.5 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper (each)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine


Over medium-high heat, saute onions in olive oil until just tender.  Stir in sun dried tomatoes, onion, leeks, carrots, salt and pepper.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp. more oil to keep things loose. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook pasta as directed by the package, but stop at slightly less than al dente as it will continue to cook when baking.  Drain thoroughly

For the sauce, whisk together corn starch, milk, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and garlic in a sauce pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk in 1 cup shredded Parmesan until melted.

Incorporate turkey, vegetables, sauce and pasta in a large mixing bowl.  Transfer to a glass or metal baking pan.  Top with almonds (optional) more cheese (not optional!) and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

This is the first in a series on holiday left overs.  Up next is another use for glorious turkey: the turkey pot pie.

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Stone Brewery Fresh Dinner October 2009

October 20th, 2009 by Justin | 2 Comments | Filed in Reviews

Like everything at Stone Brewery, their quarterly Fresh Dinner event is absolutely epic.  Just like their bistro, the catalyst for this event was Stone’s dedication to local, organic foods, and the Slow Food movement.  The dinner consisted of a six course meal plus an intermezzo and appetizer prepared by executive chef, Alex Carballo, and his staff.

Cucumber, Bell Pepper and Onion Salad; Freshly Baked Rolls

A great way to start any dinner, this light salad was tossed with olive oil pressed fresh that day which was delicious, rich and earthy.  The fresh olive oil was a re-occurring ingredient throughout the meal and paired well with the rolls.

Ginger Roasted Winter Squash Soup

Served in a snifter and one of my favorites of the night with just the right touch of ginger.  I just wish there was more of it to go around.

Arrogant Bastard Ale Battered “Fanny Bay” Oysters with a Mussel and Clam Seafood Vinaigrette

Anything fried is without a doubt heavenly, and this dish was no exception.  Add to that the near perfect, light and flaky beer batter and you have a course that was hard to beat.  Luckily for all in attendance, this was easily blown out of the water by the dishes to follow.

Intermezzo: Beet and Apple Juice

An off-menu intermezzo, the combination beet and apple juice shooter was quite tasty (even to someone who doesn’t like beets!) and cleared the palette at just the right time.

Spiny Lobster Tamale with Roasted Poblano Sauce

  • Local lobster supplied by Pacific Shellfish, caught off the coast of La Jolla
  • Poblanos from Dragon Organics
  • Masa and corn husks from Esperanza’s Tortilleria

Chef Carballo substituted lard for freshly made butter to produce the best use of lobster ever I’ve ever enjoyed.  The poblano sauce, which was mixed with other chilies, was delicious with a great roasted taste, but the tamale was moist and savory enough to stand on its own.

Herbed Crepes Stuffed with Mushrooms, Fresh Ricotta and Topped with Charred Tomato Compote

  • Eggs from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch
  • Herbs from Dragon Organics and Stone Bistro Gardens
  • Mushrooms from Mountain Meadow Mushrooms
  • Ricotta made in-house from fresh milk from De Jong’s Dairy
  • Tomatoes from Connelly Gardens

What can I say about these?  Served in tandem with the tamales, these hearty crepes were simply excellent.  Like the whole of the meal, the compote was simple and unassuming, but showed the strengths of sticking to the basics and letting the natural flavors of the food speak for themselves.

Arugula and Persimmon Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Arugula from La Milpa Organica
  • Persimmons from Crows Pass Farm
  • Lemons from Vivian Blackstone
  • Olive Oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company

Unfortunately, there has to be a least favorite and this course was it for me.  Even though the persimmons were beautiful, it’s my personal preference that arugula doesn’t stand well on its own, and that it goes better when mixed with other greens.  Others, of course, disagreed and ate it all up.

Two Lemon Tart with Candied Lemon Zest and Pomegranate

  • Eggs and pomegranates from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch
  • Lemons from Vivian Blackstone (Meyer and Lisbon??)

I love strong lemon flavors (sometimes eating them as one would an apple or orange) so I’m routinely disappointed by desserts that feature lemon but turn up weak in flavor.  But by this point in the meal, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.  The candied zest, which I’ve never seen before, was both novel and addictive, and this dessert finished the night with a bang and great flavor.

Tomatoes are, by far, my favorite vegetable, so it made it hard to deny the herbed crepes the honor, but my favorite course of the night was, hands down, the spiny lobster tamales with roasted poblano sauce.  I was sad to force myself not to eat anymore of these so that I could save room for dessert.  Thankfully, dessert was far from disappointment.

Without a doubt, the night was a great success and worth the hour drive to get to the brewery.  If you think good food has celebrity value, then this event was absolutely star-studded.  I can’t wait till tickets for the winter event are available.

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Stone Brewery

August 15th, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Stone Brewery | Filed in Breweries

We had a conference to attend and speak at this weekend in San Diego.  So, we decided to make the fullest out of it and visit the Stone Brewery in Escondido on the way home.  In short, it was the best decision ever.

Besides the obviously fine beer that Stone boasts, the food was also exceptional.  Stone’s self-proclaimed commitment to organic and locally grown meat and produce antes up in a way more than words.  This was some of the best food that I’ve had in a very long time, definitely better than I expected from a brewery where typically only the hops are the focus.

We enjoyed their Mushroom Pillows, Sausages Times 4, Cheese Broccoli Tempura soup, and a delicious Buffalo Burger with blue cheese and smoked Gouda.  Can’t wait to go back, likely for my birthday in September.  I’d suggest that if you’re in the area, that you enjoy yourself to the fullest at their bar and bistro, and sleep it off in the garden.

(I’d upload a picture, but WordPress is being cranky right now.  I’ll get back to it.)

As far as the beer’s concerned, I’d get yourself a taste of their 13th Anniversary Ale before it’s gone.  My favorites are any of the three bastards: Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and the Double Bastard.  These are all great beers and the original Arrogant Bastard has become almost a house-hold standard for me over the past year.  Most of Stone’s own creations might be heavier than the common beer man (or woman) can appreciate.  But not to worry if you can’t; they also stock their bar with fine beers from other local breweries giving you quite a selection.  Give Lightning Brewery’s Thunderweizen a try.

Also, if you’re looking to squeeze out some free samples, take the tour as they follow it up with a selection of four tasters.  You don’t get to pick which ones, but you’d probably mess that up anyway.

Today was the first time we’ve made it out there, but it wont be the last.  Amen for ale.

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Fresh Chile Citrus Salsa

July 7th, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Fresh Chile Citrus Salsa | Filed in Salsas, Sauces

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do, I naturally gravitate toward the Food Network.  And, unashamedly so, two of my favorite shows are Chopped and Iron Chef.  I just so happened to be watching Bobby Flay competing on Iron Chef last Sunday, and noticed that he had four or five blenders filled with different combinations of vegatables and what not to be pureed into sauces.

Since I was planning on making tacos some time soon (which happened to be yesterday), I decided to give this technique a try.  Also, I just so happened to have the luck of having a roommate who recently took up gardening,  so I had all of these peppers hanging around fresh on my balcony.  “Fresher is better” and all that.


  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 3 jalepeños
  • 3 banana chiles
  • 3 Anaheim chiles
  • 2 limes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbps. extra virgin olive oil

Remove the tops of the tomatoes, quarter and add to blender.  Add the juice of the lemon and limes.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and peppers.  Toss till well coated.  Roast until the chiles begin to blacken on each side.  Turn with tongs to get an even roasting.  Be careful not to burn them as you don’t want flaky bits of ash in your salsa.  The entire process takes about 7-10 minutes.

Once roasted, remove the chiles from the pan and place on a cutting board to cool.  Do not rinse or wipe them down.  Once you are able to handle them, remove the stems.  Leaving the seeds in while provide more spice,but if you or your guests can’t handle the heat, deseed them as well.  The chiles should be very tender, and able to be quickly deseeded with a quick scrape of a spoon.

Add the prepared chiles to the blender and puree until liquefied.

Spicy to the lips and sweet to the palate.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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Dirty Tacos

July 6th, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Dirty Tacos | Filed in Meals

So here’s a quick and dirty taco recipe that I just threw together as a lunch for myself one day (and I love tacos)

Tacos, first off, are not necessarily a main course. They are traditionally, and still are, served as appetizers or snacks; however, just as some might go nuts with buffalo wings, they can easily stand on their own.


  • 1 medium, sweet (yellow) onion
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp. Red vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Dragon sauce

In a small frying pan, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for roughly 5 minutes until just tender. Add 1 tbsp garlic powder and cook for about 2 more minutes.  Transfer to a covered bowl to keep warm.

While the onions are cooking, butterfly and dice the chicken breast into bite size pieces.

In the same pan (do not clean or drain it), fry the chicken over medium/medium high heat with the red vinegar, Tabasco, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dragon sauce, and 1 tbsp garlic powder. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Combine the onions with the chicken and continue to cook until the chicken is firm, roughly 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand to allow the sauce to thicken a bit. You should end up with a dark brown (hence the “dirty”) mix of goodness.

Meanwhile, in another pan, fry corn tortillas in corn oil to your liking.  I prefer them best just slightly crunchy. Fill the tortillas with chicken, onions, and drizzle sauce from the pan over each.  Of course you can add a little cheese, diced tomatoes,  and cilantro to bring it all together.

Makes about 8 tacos.

A taco of a different color

In the end, except for looking the part, these don’t really taste much like tacos in the traditional sense.  But they are tasty little buggers and passed the “friends test.”  I originally made this about 2 years ago and had thankfully written down the recipe.  We brought it out again for an impromptu dinner get-together last night along with a new fresh chile citrus salsa creation.

A note about the Dragon sauce:  This isn’t really a commonly stocked item by most grocers where I live, and honestly, I have no idea how it got in my cabinet. It smells and tastes similar to soy sauce (which you can use as a substitute), but it’s thicker, less salty, and a tad richer with a hint of spice.  It seems to be pretty popular though, and a quick Google search will give you plenty of sources.

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Orange Marm-inade

July 1st, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Orange Marm-inade | Filed in Marinades, Sauces

To be honest, it’s been a good while since I made this so the ingredients are a little fuzzy, but I think it’s about right.  Turns out very rich to be a very rich marinade, good for red meats.


  • 2/3 small jar orange marmalade
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ginger powder
  • 2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 2 tsp sage

Mix and go!  I scored my steaks to allow the larger chunks of goodness from the marmalade to get trapped in between and to increase the surface area of meat that could absorb the flavor of the marinade.  Also, scoring will keep your meat incredibly tender if you’re forced in to pan frying your meat like I was (it was a late dinner).

Marinates 3 to 4 steaks.

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Chicken ala Ackbar

July 1st, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Chicken ala Ackbar | Filed in Meals

So here’s a chicken dish that’s been turning out well with some consistency in both preparation and review.


  • 2 Chicken breasts, butterflied (or enough for 4 people)
  • 2 Tomatoes (cubed)
  • 2 Onions (cubed)
  • 2 cups (or 4 servings) jasmine rice (prepared as directed on package)
  • Fontina, shredded
  • Olive oil
  • Red vinegar
  • 2 lemons, or 5 tbsp. juice
  • Dry white wine (optional)
  • Green Tabasco (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Basil
  • Fresh ground pepper (buy a mill, dammit)
  • Garlic powder
  • Cilantro, whole or chopped (as a garnish)

Ready? Go!

Prepare the rice as directed on the package. The time here will depend on the type of rice and the method in which you prepare it. Lacking a rice cooker, I choose to cook on the stove top which, taking about 20 minutes, is a perfect time for this dish as the whole thing should take about that long. While the rice is cooking, begin cooking the vegetables and chicken as follows.

In a small frying pan, begin caramelizing the onions in 2 tbsp. olive oil and of red vinegar each over medium heat, breaking up the onions into smaller pieces while cooking.  Add basil and a pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, turning the onions occasionally so as not to burn. Reduce heat to low and add the tomatoes, stirring carefully to distribute the tomatoes without smashing them. Cover and let sit on a low heat until the rest of the dish is ready.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan large enough to hold all of the chicken without overlapping, again start with 2 tbsp. olive oil and red vinegar over medium heat. Once the red vinegar begins to bubble, add the chicken to the pan.  After about 5 minutes, add lemon juice, a dash of white wine (optional), garlic powder (enough to lightly coat the chicken), and a dash of Tabasco (optional).  Cover and reduce heat to low.

Allow the chicken to cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, turn, and recover.  Since we will be cooking the chicken for about 15-20 minutes, be sure to use a low heat so as not to over-cook and dry the chicken out.   When the chicken is almost ready, uncover, raise the heat to hi, and turn the chicken again. Allow the chicken to cook briefly just long enough to slightly sear the presentation side (1 to 2 minutes).

A dish best served funky…

Serve the chicken, presentation side up on a bed of rice and top with the onions and tomatoes (don’t forget the juice!).  Garnish with shredded Fontina and whole or chopped cilantro.  For the Tabasco inclined, a little of the green stuff goes well with or without the cilantro.   Some corn tortillas would also be nice.

Serves 4.

The whole meal only takes about 25-30 minutes with preparation.   The Fontina, a softer and mild cheese, can, of course, be substituted with something else to your liking. I suggest that you keep it soft and mild.  However, if you want to go hard, try some Parmesan.  But if I catch you using that Kraft trash, I will break into your house and tear your wife in half!

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Bastard Sauce

May 24th, 2009 by Justin | Comments Off on Bastard Sauce | Filed in Marinades, Sauces

I came up with a pretty descent barbecue sauce/marinade the last time I lit up the barbie.  This was used on pork chops (the smallest ever), but will also work well on other meats, especially chicken.   Just don’t burn the shit out of it like I did.


  • Barbecue sauce (as a base…because cheating is easier)
  • Worcestershire
  • Ketchup
  • Garlic powder
  • Red vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • Green Tabasco
  • Oregano
  • Dash of salt.

Listed in order of most to least used. You figure it out.

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