Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cabbage and Sausage Stew

This is a easy recipe that my Mom gave to me in October of 2008, exactly 5 years ago. What makes it so poignant is that Mom was diagnosed with cancer just two months later and then suffered her car accident in January of 2009, eventually succumbing to her injuries that following April. Pretty sad huh? In addition, Mom's writing on the recipe card is rather shaky. Her writing used to be so flowing, with loops and scrolls. Her writing shows the effects of fibromyalgia which she was suffering from at that point. With this being officially the "last" recipe she had given me as simple as it is, it now has special meaning.

I had never made this recipe but with the advent of the chillier Fall weather, I thought it would be a perfect time to try it.  I did make some minor changes to suit my own needs but her original recipe appears below.

Cabbage and Sausage Stew


1 head of cabbage
1 can "RO*TEL" brand tomatoes and green chilies
1 16 oz. package of your favorite link sausage
salt and pepper, season how you wish

Sauté or grill sausage links until they are fully cooked. Put aside. Cook cabbage in large pot with canned tomatoes until cabbage is done. Add sausage links and simmer for 15 minutes on low.  As Mom wrote on the recipe card, it is an "excellent cold weather meal with salad and hot bread. Easy to make also!"

Some choices and changes I made included using sweet Italian pork sausage. I would also use turkey sausage. Once the sausage was done, I sliced it up into 1/2 inch slices and then added it to the cabbage.  Instead of having to shred cabbage myself, I bought a bagged of shredded cabbage with carrots that one would use for coleslaw. It cut down on the cooking time and just made it easier for me. Instead of the RO*TEL brand tomatoes and green chilies, you can use your own favorite chunky spaghetti sauce, or another brand of canned tomatoes and green chilies. Alternately, you can chop up your own tomatoes, onions, and peppers and use them too. Spice it up however you want to! The nice thing about this recipe is that you can be as creative as you want to be, or make the recipe as my Mom did for an easy excellent cold weather meal.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Camp Fire Cooking

Campin' with John.

When I was a kid, the only food that mattered while camping was toasted marshmallows over a campfire. We weren’t a ‘smores family. Marshmallows suited us just fine. My family “camped” at Parvin State Park in southern New Jersey for years over long weekends in the Fall. We stayed at one of the CCC -built rustic wooden cabins. Cabin #13 was our favorite for whatever reason. The cabins surrounded a small lake named Thundergust Lake. We would spend the weekend going on family hikes or trying our hand at fishing in the lake. Year after year the fish at Parvin evaded my brother and me but we were persistent, always trying the next year.

Anyway, these days John and I spend a week every Fall camping either in a tent or cabin in some State Park or wilderness area we haven’t been before. Our trip this year was to three Pennsylvania State Parks: Parker Dam, Clear Creek, and Cook Forest. It was an incredible trip with some great hikes accomplished  We spied a wonderful array of wildlife including dozens of elk, deer, wild turkeys, bear, a porcupine, a weasel, a group of over 30 turkey vultures, an owl, and one very aggressive beaver.

Preparing for this trip brought me back to thinking about the camping trips with my family when I was around 8 or 10 and what we ate back then. I had a brownie mix I made as I figured we’d want dessert at the end of our hikes. The good thing about brownies is that they last a long time after baking them. Brownies were one of Mom’s staple desserts for us kids. Although they never lasted as long as they do with John and I. One brownie and a shot of my favorite scotch or port is enough dessert for me!

John cooking baked beans over the campfire.
Camp food back at Cabin #13 was your run of the mill hot dogs and hamburgers, sloppy joe's and maybe BBQ chicken one night or two. Breakfast included eggs and bacon, or Dad’s famous pancakes. John and I made grilled authentic German style wieners from Dietrich’s Meats in Krumsville, PA with baked beans and … chopped up Spam! (Sidebar: For camping, I love Spam and have nothing against low sodium turkey Spam over the fire!) Our attempt was to grill the wieners and a pot of beans over the fire in true camp fire tradition. We covered the grill with aluminum foil to be a little bit more sanitary. The wieners were fine on the fire but with the pot of beans on the grill at the same time, everything kept sliding off into the fire. As it turned out, spraying the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray was not the best idea. I admit it, my idea. We laid down another layer of aluminum foil and eventually finished cooking our camp fire dinner.

The campfire dinner that almost slid into the fire.
Evenings at Cabin #13 were a fun time. As a family, we played backgammon, board games, and card games such as Crazy 8's, Go Fish, and War. Remember them? It was a time before MP3 players, WiFi internet on tablets, and portable play stations. We actually just enjoyed each other’s company. The best part of the evening for us was roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. Adam, Sheryl, and I would compete with each other for the most perfectly roasted marshmallow. I think Sheryl won most of the time. She had the patience for it. Adam’s and mine usually caught on fire and burnt to a crisp before we could blow out the fire. We still ate them though, usually to the point of upset stomachs!

Being the little fire starters that we were, we would throw things into the fire just to see what would happen, much to my parent’s chagrin. We loved torching Styrofoam cups which would sizzle and burn and then float up into the sky before extinguishing in the night air.  I still remember Mom screaming at us, “Oh My GOD! Bob, they are gonna burn the cabin down! DO something!!!” My pacifist father would gently reprimand us, "Now boys..."  Haha, the big ole’ softy! 

My marshmallows came out pretty good this time around. John and I each have these marshmallow sticks we take every camping trip. They are whittled down perfectly. I know I meant to eat only 4 each night at the camp fire but ended up eating like 8 or 9. Marshmallows, after all, are a fat free food!

Rained the last night, so roasted marshmallows in the wood stove!

This past week brought out some great memories of camping with my family. Adam and I made forts with the fire wood, hiked, harassed our sister (as usual), and fished that lake for over half a decade. When I returned as an adult and lamented to a park ranger that we never caught any fish, he laughed and said, "Well of course you didn't. Thundergust Lake was dead back in the 70's and 80's. There wasn't a fish in it!"