Old Diary

Clean Eating Barbecue Sauce

Last autumn when I was in Milwaukee getting my health taken care of the doctor encouraged me to a more “Clean Eating” lifestyle.  There are various definitions of ‘clean eating’ some of them relate to eating more-smaller meals, others focus on unprocessed ingredients, others focus on reducing the shear number of ingredients in your food (cutting out those words in the ingredient list that you can’t pronounce).

While looking into that I came across a basic ‘clean eating’ barbecue sauce.  I have used a couple varieties of this — in particular eliminating the garlic and the liquid smoke both of which I have a hard time digesting.

It’s amazing how many things can be improved by the addition of unsweetened applesauce!


  • clean-eating-bbq-sauce1 cup water
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured molasses
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp onion powder (or diced onion)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder * (or smashed garlic)
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (I used hickory) *
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper


  • In a small saucepan, add all ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  • Bring to a boil, cover half way with a lid to prevent splashing and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a glass jar and let cool.
  • Use as you would use a store bought BBQ sauce.

Storage Instructions: Refrigerate in an airtight glass jar for up to a few months. Might be freezable.

Old Diary

A check on our solar powered fridge

The first day’s results are in.

Yesterday morning I turned off the battery charging system from the power post here at the Corps of Engineers campsite.  That is an automatic function within the coach.  I have to consciously disable it because most people want their batteries to be charged when they plug into shore power.  In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that I wanted to monitor what happens when we rely solely upon the solar panels to power our new refrigerator.  Seeing as the fridge is powered off the same bank of batteries that power our house lights and some small appliances we’re really testing our over all battery capacity against our typical usage.

Yesterday was a nice sunny day.  By the end of the day, and after several days of severely overcast skies the batteries needed to be brought up to 100% charge.   At the end of the charging day we had a full 600 amp hours in the batteries.  And this morning — as the sun was coming up and the solar panels were about to start working again we still had 94% of our charge. I’m pretty happy with that result.  I will continue monitoring — specially on days with overcast skies — and on strings of days with overcast skies to thoroughly understand the ins-and-outs of the system now that we have a larger continuous load on the system, but I’m happy with the way things are working.

Chill Time

Monday, after two long days of driving, I didn’t accomplish much at all.  We mostly try not to drive two days in a a row but it’s not like we have a “policy” that we won’t do it.  It’s just a preference that we often abide by but don’t get too upset about when we don’t.

It’s interesting though that for various reasons being in Milwaukee seems to have been more ‘stressful’ than one might think.  We’re out of the city, back with nature and after several checks of my BP throughout the day yesterday my numbers are a good 10-15 numbers lower than they were holding steadily in Milwaukee.  We’re back in our kind of environment with the geese and deer and not nearly as many people and no truck backup alarms, and no tow trucks zooming through the parking lot and life is good once again.

The Sunrise Tuesday Morning.

The Sunrise Tuesday Morning.

For the first time in (probably) 3 1/2 months we didn’t get in the car and drive anywhere yesterday.  Even though I had a couple errands I want to run I decided to chill and do nothing.  I started (about 2 p.m.) and finished a James Patterson book,  caught up on computer backups, edited quite a few blog categories and tags — all stuff that I consider ‘doing nothing.’  Peaceful time at the computer, or sitting in the lounge chatting with my sweetheart.

Speaking of sweethearts…

The 21st (of December) is our 47th wedding anniversary.  We’ll be moving from Grenada to the Service Campground on the 20th — so that on the 21st we are stationary and we can just enjoy the day as ‘newlyweds.’ 🙂

Silas AL is not much of a metropolis — I need to get to the grocery before we leave Grenada to find something interesting for our anniversary dinner.  The last couple years we have tended to do restaurants for our anniversary evening but there appear to be only three restos of any sort in Silas AL so I’m going to arrive prepared!

Mrs P — one of my faithful readers — commented the other day about differences in cuisine between East and West (coasts).  And I have been thinking about that comment for a couple days.

One of the things we have noticed as we travel about is how much the grocery stores change from place to place.  I have commented a few times about various things:  corned beef hash, sausages and preserved meats, jelly/preserves, quality of veg/produce, etc. I’m sure I could make comments that would be taken as ‘profiling’ or racially biased but the fact of the matter is that one finds a different variety of product in local stores based upon what the local clientele will purchase.

And sometimes it’s not about different states or cities — sometimes it’s just about neighborhoods.  For example if you go to a grocery that says it’s an Asian grocery or the name of which is obviously Latino one is not surprised to find that the store carries ingredients unique to Asian or Latino cuisine.  But if you go to a Safeway, or Lion, or Sentry, of Jewel it’s easy to think that such differences don’t exist — or don’t exist within departments — but in fact they do.

While in S. Texas we had to learn to buy completely different cuts of beef and pork, and we found it very difficult to find lamb at all.  The cuts of beef were often much larger — intended for the outdoor grill as prime cuts of meat.  The same steaks that we might expect in Milwaukee simply were not to be found — A Porterhouse was extremely hard to find, but what I know as thin-sliced breakfast steaks were in abundance — whereas in Milwaukee not so much.  We have noted that in some areas of the country jams and jellies are found in abundance while in other areas you get the sort of standard grape/strawberry/apricot mix and not a lot more.  Ethnic foods are another telltale.  In some generic groceries there are multiple aisles filled with ethnic food — in others generic groceries you might be lucky to find 1/2 of 1 aisle devoted to ethnic foods.

If you go to a restaurant you’ll find far more standardized dining than if you visit a grocery — or at least so it seems to us.  Especially if you are one of those unimaginative eaters who love chain restaurants — for the thing about chain food is that they work very hard at giving you the exact same thing no matter where you are.  McDonalds has become the ‘taste’ leader — being the first chain to manage giving you the same cup of (admittedly mediocre) coffee no matter where you are.  Their reliance upon reverse osmosis filters (and subsequently their impact on other chains) has done a lot to remove the differences in restaurant coffee based on the local water supply.  Some of you may be young enough never to have tasted coffee made from highly sulphur water, or highly iron coffee but let me tell you, if you missed it, count yourselves lucky.  As terrible as McDonalds coffee might be, it’s infinitely better than coffees I’ve been served in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in independent restaurants and truck stops.

Lemon Curd dundee orang marmaladeMy dad used to love visiting grocery stores while on roadtrips.  When I was young I never appreciated what he found there;  after we married and started traveling on our own I found myself doing the same thing and discovering the same delights as he.  I remember my first container of Dundee Orang Marmalade or Wilkins Lemon Curd.  The original containers — at least of the Dundee product didn’t even have a screw top lid or safety lid — they were covered with a piece of parchment tied in place with a little bit of string.  And they were outrageously intensely flavored — and we could not find them in Milwaukee.

In college I worked for Uncle August Sausage company and developed a taste for smoked meats.  When I first tasted the difference between fresh liver sausage and smoked Braunschweiger (same contents, but smoked) I was over the moon — my tastebuds woke up for the first time ever (or so it felt).  All of these differences to be found in an average grocery store — forget the idea of traveling the world for taste sensations — and we have done that as well.  One of the best meals I ever ate was in Carcassonne France, when I had a classic Cassoulet which is really nothing more than amped up baked beans — and yet the combination of circumstances and flavors hit a high note I have rarely repeated.  It doesn’t have to be fancy to be extraordinary.  Sometimes the simplest ingredients, honored and respected, produce the best flavors.

And at that, I’m going to get in the car and drive into Grenada to see what we can find for dinner.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Old Diary

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

Mushrooms are among my favorite foods / flavors.  I have played with using balsamic vinegar in a variety of dishes, but it’s not a flavor I use very often.  So, this recipe on Pinterest piqued my curiosity.  We regularly do a meal we call ‘American Spaghetti’ which is very similar to this without the mushrooms, cream or the balsamic.  Then again I also do a knockoff version of carbonara that uses the cream and egg yolks.  This is somewhere in between. Enjoy.

Remember, I am king of the 20 minute meal.  Most of what I cook is ‘designed’ as low-impact cooking: good flavor, but not a lot of time in the kitchen.


PREP TIME 10 mins
COOK TIME 15 mins
TOTAL TIME 25 mins

Balsamic-Mushroom-Pasta2This recipe makes enough for 2 people with appropriate side dishes.  With a side of crusty bread you might squeeze three servings out of it.  If you’re a hearty eater and the pasta is all you’re having — you might need to multiply the recipe a little … some of us have been known to eat 3 or 4 ounces of pasta a person when in the right mood!

Get a big pot of salty water going for the pasta. While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil, prep the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms (or buy the pre-sliced ones!). Once the water is boiling, toss in the pasta and start heating the butter and oil in another pan and get going on the sauce. It comes together so quickly – just saute the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in the butter and oil, deglaze the pan with some balsamic, and then add in the cream.

(If you are a one induction burner guy like me, you’ll realize as you read through this recipe that you need to change things around a little.  The whole sauté, deglaze, and saucing thing if fine if you’re going to cook pasta in one container while you are making the sauce in another.  But i’m sure you’re smart enough to figure that out, First, do your sautéing and deglazing, the reserve those things in a bowl while you’re pasta is cooking.  After you have drained the pasta then pop your almost completed sauce back into the pan, add the cream, extra butter, and let the sauce come together.  Sometimes doing the single burner thing is easier, other times it’s not! — in this recipe it’s not!)

Some parmesan and parsley finishes the whole thing off.


  • Balsamic-Mushroom-Pasta4 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallot, finely diced (if your RV’ing near some little town where you can’t find shallots, then use an onion instead — hey — gotta be flexible, right?)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar ( I might trim the balsamic a little, but that’s just me)
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a few tablespoons for garnish
  • salt & pepper


  1. Cook the fettuccine according to the directions on the package. While the pasta is cooking prepare the mushroom sauce.
  2. In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once melted, add in the shallots and garlic and cook for a few minutes or so, just until softened.
  3. Add in the sliced mushrooms and toss them around to get them coated in the butter and olive oil. If needed, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if the mushrooms get too dry. Let them cook and brown for about 8 minutes.
  4. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and stir everything together making sure to scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the other tablespoon of butter. Cook everything together for a couple of minutes and then turn off the heat and move the pan off the burner.
  5. Pour in the cream and parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
  6. Add the cooked fettuccine to the sauce and toss to combine. Add in the fresh parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper (about a ½ teaspoon of each).
  7. Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

One of the less common items that showed up on my parent’s dining table when I was young was a version of Dill Pickle Soup.  I know it sounds a bit bizarre but I loved it as a child and love it still as an adult.  It’s not something I normally make myself — I usually end up saving it as a special treat for evenings at a really good ethnic restaurant but I came across this version and it’s got all the right ingredients so I wanted to share it!

Dill Pickle Soup

Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak
Serves: Serves 6-8


  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1-3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (smaller dice)
  • 1 cup chopped dill pickles (smaller dice ~ about 3 large whole dills)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups dill pickle juice*
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Garnish (optional)

  • sliced dill pickles
  • fresh dill
  • black pepper


  • In a large pot, combine broth, potatoes, carrots and butter. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add pickles and continue to boil.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sour cream and water, making a paste. Vigorously whisk sour cream mixture (2 Tablespoons at a time) into soup. (This will also break up some of your potatoes which is okay. You might see some initial little balls of flour form, but between the whisking and boiling all will disappear. Don’t panic.)
  • Add pickle juice, Old Bay, salt (*see below), pepper and cayenne. Cook 5 more minutes and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
  • All pickle juice is not created equal. Some is saltier than others. Taste your soup after adding the pickle juice and final seasonings. It’s possible you will not need any salt or would prefer more or less.

You really need to serve this with a nice dollop of sour cream on the top that you can gradually blend into the soup at the last moment.

Enjoy — I know I do!Dill Pickle Soup served with rustic bread

Dill Pickle Soup

Old Diary

62 different kinds of PIE!

In the early 80’s a place called the Norske Nook was written up in a book about the best Road Food places in America.  And with that write up began a boon for the little town of Osseo WI of nearly unprecedented proportions. 2015082512241703 2015082512510606

Through the 80’s and 90’s I visited this place regularly.  Then they started getting charter buses stopping off for meals and it became nearly impossible to get a table.  Their solution was to open three more locations — and to do their best to maintain their quality.  It’s been a while since we’ve been there and it was time for a return visit.

If you like scratch made cooking this is the place in NW Wisconsin!  Their meals have always been more than filling, very tasty and reasonably priced.  On Tuesday, however, all we did was to have a bowl of soup and a couple pieces of pie.  You can see from the photo, my Rum Raisin Sour Cream Meringue was worth a reasonable drive!

And check out the flavors — the placemat photo is clickable!

2015082511484501The real reason we took a drive on Tuesday related to a news article about a man, who in honor of his wife who recently passed after succumbing to cancer, planted 4 MILES of sunflowers along WI-85 between Eau Claire and Carlyville.  Kathryn had heard about the sunflowers on their local TV so we went off in search of them.  It was sunny in St Croix Falls when we left and the closer to the sunflowers the more overcast it became.  By the time we arrived on site it was completely overcast and the sunflowers were drooping, not standing tall.  Sigh.  Oh well, we had good intentions.

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a piece of pie on me and I’ll talk with you tomorrow. 🙂



Old Diary


I recently had my first experience of Ceviche and I was blown away.  Not sure how a guy who likes to experiment with food and thinks nothing of eating sushi (as in RAW seafood) missed ceviche which is actually cooked seafood:  cooked by the acids in the citrus juice.

Please, use only the freshest seafood!  Do not take chances with your health, or risk misjudging the wonders of ceviche by using old product.

Do NOT make excess to your requirements.  The acid in the  ceviche will continue to cure and break down the fish the longer it sits in the liquid.

Do not try to freeze ceviche


  • Ceviche1-1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise
  • ¼ pound bay scallops
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice plus more for dipping glasses
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup diced white onion
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • ¾ cup diced tomato, seeded
  • 1/8 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon diced jalapeno, seeded
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • Slices of lime

Add orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, ketchup and garlic to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add shrimp and scallops; reduce heat and cook for 3 minutes.  Using a sieve, drain shrimp reserving citrus juice mixture.

cevicheditedPlace shrimp and scallops on a plate and put in the fridge to chill.  Cool down the citrus mixture by placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes or nested in a bowl of ice water.

Add tomato, white onion, red onion, green onion, jalapeno, cilantro, olive oil, and hot sauce to the cooled citrus mixture.  Add chilled shrimp and scallops stirring well to coat.

When ready to serve, dip serving glasses into lime juice and then into kosher salt.  Spoon diced avocado into the bottom of each glass and spoon shrimp-scallop mixture with juices on top.  Serve immediately or chill up to two hours.  Garnish with lime slices.

Old Diary

Chili with Beer Served in a Bacon Bowl

OK — there is nothing healthy about this recipe. But when I saw BACON BOWL I had to stop. Then I had to taste.Beer-and-Beef-Chili-in-a-Bacon-Bowl-6


  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can chili style beans or kidney beans – partially drained
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t Hungarian paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • 1 5.5 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 t granulates sugar
  • 2 packs of bacon  (As needed to line your baking container)
  • 1½ lbs ground beef


  1. Prep veggies by slicing them into bite-size portions. Beer-and-Beef-Chili-in-a-Bacon-Bowl-3
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, add in the ground beef. Cook for 5 minutes and then add onions and carrots.Remove excess fat.  Continue cooking until meat is browned. Add in the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Stir in the seasonings and let them toast then add salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes. Add in the beer, tomatoes, and beans. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes. Add peppers and sugar. Taste for seasoning. Cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until veggies are tender-crisp.Beer-and-Beef-Chili-in-a-Bacon-Bowl-1
  4. NOTE If you want to make this in a crockpot: brown your meat, onions, and garlic in a large pan. Add all the ingredients except for the bacon to your slow cooker and cook on low heat for about 8 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. Prepare your cast iron dutch oven by layering the bacon slices around the inside of the pan, overlapping slightly. You want to leave enough overhang so when you fold back the bacon, it covers the top nicely. The amount of bacon slices depends on the size of your dutch oven.
  7. Pour the chili into the bacon wrapped pot and then bring the overhanging slices of bacon over the top to cover the chili (almost like the chili is sitting in a giant bacon cup now.)Beer-and-Beef-Chili-in-a-Bacon-Bowl-2
  8. Place pan into the oven, uncovered, and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until your bacon reaches desired crispiness. Allow to cool slightly and dig in!
  9. NOTE: bacon will add salt to your chili, salt lightly when you season your chili. The beer adds quite a bit of liquid to this dish.

This may not be the kind of thing you eat often — but if you’re really hungry for chili and want something different the instant heart attack might be worth it.  🙂

Old Diary

Acid and Alkaline

There are things in this world I don’t understand, not the least of which is how our bodies process the food/chemicals we eat.

One of my favorite flavors is LEMON — imagine my surprise when I found that LEMONS are alkaline forming, and not acid forming.

Click on Image to see full size

Click on Image to see full size

I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or not.

I think I need to do some more research.