Saturday, August 15, 2009

Best Bacon

Reflections from the Backcounter

Well...July and August have been very busy months at the Backcounter and thus the paucity of blog posts. Oh well, self induced stress is not productive. The purpose of blogging is fun and worrying about missing posts is not the point....enough rationalization and on to the point of this post....Bacon....

I just returned from a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where I had the opportunity to spend three days. It is such an exquisitely beautiful place. I did finally see three bison as I drove to the airport but my best find while there was not of the four legged variety....but was a culinary treat! I had the best bacon I have ever eaten and it was served as an appetizer for a cocktail party. I could not coax the recipe from the caterer and so I pursued the recipe the old fashioned way...I ate about a bucket of bacon....

As a result, I am sure I gained about 7 pounds but I do think I cracked the code and that I can reproduce the recipe... Here is my guess

Applewood Bacon...thick cut
Brown sugar
Chile powder/spice rub

Dust bacon with brown sugar and chile mixture...bake in 350 degree oven until crisp and serve in a cone of parchment paper standing in a small silver bucket

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think



Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Heat is ON!!!

Panting chickens!!

Chicken Swamp Cooler!

Life in the Sonoran Desert is defined by one word today....HEAT... right now at 3 pm it is 117 degrees Farenheit. I have resorted to all of my anti heat strategies learned through more than 30 summers in this inferno. Today, my focus is on keeping my chickens alive. How hot can a chicken get before it can't take it???? I think that I am about to find out. The poor little things are panting away in their pen. The pen is in the shade, they have plenty of water and now I have resorted to constructing a Rube Goldberg swamp cooler with the help of my mother who shares my concerns for our flock of heat intolerant chickens.....

With a fan, my roasting pan acting as a water reservoir and a shredded towel, I am now blowing air across a wet towel that has been torn in strips to provide some cooling of the air that is blowing into the coop....we will see. I have also frozen milk bottles of water and have put them into the pen in the hopes that the chickens will be smart enough to sit near the ice......intelligence does not seem to be their strong suit today...maybe the heat is frying their brains....
So maybe we now know the answer to the proverbial question?? Why did the chicken cross the road? To get out of the heat!!!!!!!!

I have wet down every surface in the yard, and I am keeping the dogs wet while they are outside for their needed bathroom breaks and am keeping them inside as much as possible.

GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need a vacation in the mountains.......

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Havasu falls: continued

Reflections from the Backcounter
The power of nature has reconfigured the landscape of Havasupai. This picture shows a new waterfall that was the result of the flood and the gouging of the wall above the creek to form a new gorge. Currently, it looks like strip mining and is painful to see given the previous lush foliage that surrounded the creek. The raw beauty of the turquoise water is breathtaking in spite of the devastation and it is only a matter of time for the travertine pools to build up and there will be another gorgeous fall and pool. This waterfall is on the way to Havasu falls and the campground.

Havasu falls Mooney falls are about another mile below the campground and are spectacular. However, the trail leading to the falls is not for the faint of heart or for those with a fear of heights or closed spaces.. It includes a cavelike tunnel and a climb across a chain ladder afixed to the rock face of the cliff. As a mother of teenage girls who of course were game to go...I had to add reason to the argument and put a halt to our progress toward the falls. Our photo was taken from the trail just before the cave tunnel. I was happy with this view and tried to ignore my inner voice that was stage whispering "jump...jump" what is it about heights that brings out the jumper in all of us? Home sweet home!! Our lovely campsite next to the creek. We were in a great location and slept soundly in our tents. Surprisingly, no mosquitos.
A great trip and one that I would recommend ...but take the mule option and put your packs on the mule is a lot easier and makes the hike more enjoyable. We unfortunately were rookies and spent a lot of time head down on a forced march.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The trek to Havasu falls...the inside edition

Still happy and enthusiastic

Reflections from the Backcounter

My calves hurt. In fact muscles that I did not know existed are hurting and might I remind you...Gray's anatomy is not a TV show for was my anatomy textbook. Hiking the Grand Canyon is a laudable goal at any age and at my now ripe old unmentionable age it was a personal victory, triumph, bucket list???. Of course, the trek down was preceded by hysterical downsizing of the contents of the backpack...who needs a sleeping bag anyway??? I remain amazed at the weight of a packet of instant oatmeal and the unfathomable density of Trader Joe's dried blueberries. The pack became progressively heavier as we marched toward our goal of the Havasupai camping grounds. We reached Supai village, victorious in our accomplishment, only to have our hopes of rest and relaxation dashed by the realization that it was 2.2 more miles to the campground.
Looking a little less happy and not so enthusiastic

We arrived with barely enough strength left to lift the packs off our weary backs and still had to pitch tents and cook food....luckily, we had been given explicit instructions in tent pitching and camp making by our outfitters who conducted our pre trip instructional seminar with unbridled enthusiasm and zeal for the full backpacking experience. Armed with our new found knowledge and state of the art equipment, we dispatched with the camp set up and feasted on our tamale pie and cornbread following which we collapsed into our tents and slept throught till dawn wrapped in the tent tarp...did I mention that the sleeping bag was left at the trailhead along with my water filter and extra pants. Any strategy to lighten the load...

More on the experience later...things started to look a lot brighter in the morning once I found the spring water, a portable water filter bottle from our neighboring campers (Israelis) and the coffee.

Here are a few pics to start with. Notice our naive enthusiasm as we approach the beginning of the my daughter said as we passed hikers starting down as we were on the way out...Look at those people...they are still laughing and talking....

Peace and packing,


Monday, June 1, 2009

Chickens on the loose/Havasupai Falls

The Backcounter Backyard Chicken project enters its fifth month and is happy to report that we have eggs...yes the little red hens have produced and we are getting between two and three eggs per day. There have been a few days with four eggs but that is not yet a regular phenomenon. The eggs are brown and varied in size. We are still waiting for the blue eggs from the Aracauna hens.

We are becoming risk takers and are letting them run loose in the evenings while taking careful watch for neighbors ...unfortunately, these hens have found their voices and the squawking volume is very loud....

Our family is getting prepared to embark on a backpacking adventure to Havasupai falls in the Grand Canyon. The challenge will be the food...Our outfitters are good friends who have assured me that they will provide us with appropriate gear and an in-service tomorrow night. Hoping to see the raw beauty of the falls but know that the recent serious flooding has changed the landscape....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Treat: The Best Carrot Cake

Reflections from the Backcounter

Baking is not my forte....I have a checkered past when it comes to the culinary art of cake construction. In fact if my cakes were construction projects, they would have been condemned. There has been the leaning tower of Pisa chocolate cake, the sinkhole spice cake and the brick and mortar bundt. But, ...I may have found it...the perfect recipe for a carrot cake. Not only is this cake gorgeous but it is delicious. This recipe comes from my good friend, Sally, who is an expert in the kitchen. Her recipes are always delicious and reproducible. She only serves the best food to her family and friends and we all always look forward to her warm hospitality and bountiful table. With her permission...I am including this recipe. I will be serving it tomorrow to dear friends at our annual Easter party.

So here goes...

Sally's Scrumptious
Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs (whisked first)

Mix in bowl 2
2 1/4 cups flour
2t salt
2t baking soda
2t cinnamon

Mix into bowl 1
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 8 oz can of crushed pineapple drained
1 handful sweetened coconut
1 handful raisins

Mix bowl 2 into bowl 1 and stir until combined and well mixed
Divide equally and pour into cake pans. Bake for one hour or until center is done


3 8oz cream cheese
3 cups butter softened
6 t vanilla
3 lbs powdered sugar
Mix with handheld mixer until smooth and creamy
Ice cake after it has completely cooled. Crushed walnuts can be added to the sides for an elegant look.
Thanks again Sally...this cake is scrumptious!!
Peace, Julia

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Backcounter: Back to Basics

Reflections from the Backcounter

The Backcounter Buffet is celebrating a year in the blog world and it has been a year of evolution. More than a menu planning and recipe blog, the Backcounter is truly a reflection of the challenges we all face in trying to find that elusive point of virtual balance in our busy lives. The challenge of serving the competing masters of work, home, kids, health, relationships and personal peace...the truth is ...true balance may be an unattainable goal. Rather, we may need to strive to find contentment in swaying back and forth from different points of imbalance...there is only so much time in the day and when we focus on one area of our lives other areas may have to be prioritized.
Perhaps a better view of the concept of balance is fluid motion. Our goal should be to make fluid and graceful progress toward our goals. To raise healthy and happy children, to find fulfilling work, to make a difference in the lives of those we love and those we don't yet know, to feel joy and contentment, to have meaningful purpose.

The journey is often hard. The work can be exhausting and arduous. The demands on our time exhausting. My goal in writing this blog is to highlight the bright spots on the journey; a recipe for a delectable chocolate cake, the earthy tranquility of chickens in the backyard, the joyful commonality of experience that we share ...

I hope that you will continue to read and enjoy the Backcounter Buffet as we enter our second year together. The Backcounter Buffet, that space between life and dreams, will remain full of ideas, great food and rich experience. Thanks for journeying with me....