Introducing the SideBar! and Bourbon Slush

I am positively chuffed to announce the addition of a bar to the Ali Does It DIY repository. The delightful Trav, a budding home bartender, has caved to my peer pressure kindly volunteered to show us the ropes with a few of the fun and fantastical alcoholic beverages you can mix up these days. Enjoy this one as a last taste of summer on your long weekend! - Ali

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Bourbon Slush Punch

So, food is tasty, and cooking is interesting, but we all know the truth: eating is just a thing we do so we can stay alive long enough get to the good part, which is drinking.

With that healthy, well-balanced guiding principle in mind, I give you the first SideBar offering: a bourbon punch from Smitten Kitchen that’s strong enough to make you dizzy, but delicious enough that you won’t notice until you stand up.

This one’s easy, and it disappears quickly. That’s why we quadrupled the recipe.

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First, you’ll need to make a strong black tea. I’m not a tea drinker, but Ali picked out an Assam tea that worked very well. Let it steep until it cools, and toss the leaves. You’ll need 4 cups of tea.

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Next is lemon juice. Don’t use juice from a bottle, though, you monster. Squeeze 1 1/2 cups of juice from some fresh lemons.

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Finally, you’re going to need 1 cup of granulated sugar, 6 cups of orange juice, and a decent bottle of bourbon. You can juice some oranges, but a good bottled orange juice tends to be much better than bottled lemon (or lime). For the bourbon, we used Wild Turkey 81, and I’d also suggest Four Roses Yellow Label as a similarly cheap option. You can use a pricier bourbon if you want, like Bulleit or Woodford Reserve, but some of that flavour is likely going to be overwhelmed by the citrus.

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Pour all the liquids into a fairly large mixing bowl, including the whole bottle of bourbon. Since you’re going to want a glass or three while you’re making the punch, you should probably buy another bottle just in case.

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Stir in the sugar.

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This is the base for your punch. You could probably shake this with some ice and drink it by itself, but we’re not done yet. Keep this refrigerated until you serve it.

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When it’s time to serve the punch (which was, in our case, immediately), put equal parts ice and punch base in the blender. Half a cup of each should make one serving, and 5 cups of each makes about two litres.

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Blend them together until slushy, then pour the punch into glasses and garnish with a lemon slice, lemon peel, or mint leaves. Mint in particular is always good with bourbon and orange. If the mixture isn’t slushy enough, blend some more ice in. If the flavour isn’t strong enough, add more punch base. We definitely had to do a bit of experimenting to find the exact ratio for small servings. A lot of experimenting.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember how many I had.

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Baked (or not baked) Macaroni and Cheese: In the Woods

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This comfort meal is adapted from our own traditional recipe. It had to be downsized so as not to allow for leftovers (shocking, I know).

Start by boiling up a pot of salted water for your pasta. I figure 2 cups uncooked macaroni will do just fine.  Cook that according to the package directions and then drain.

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Continue by frying up some bacon or breakfast ham, a couple slices (the Pie has outlawed bacon in the house so ham will have to do).  Crumble or slice the cooked meat and set it aside. Chop up a large tomato as well and put that aside for now. These both went into the freezer for me. I also made sure to bring my trusty Tabasco:

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Assemble your sauce: in a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter.

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Then mix in 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup milk and stir until it starts to thicken.

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Then add in 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, and stir until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce and salt and pepper.

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Tip your sauce, meat, and tomato into the pasta and stir to coat.

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If it hadn’t been raining, we would have then shoved the whole thing into our Outback Oven and baked it for about 20 minutes until it was all crusty and bubbly. As it was raining and we were cold and damp, we just ate it in its squishy state and it was amazing.

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Spicy Fried Eggs: In the Woods

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This quick hot lunch is adapted from a breakfast I found in The Camping Cookbook, and it sure beats a soggy sandwich any day.

Finely chop up 1 large onion and sauté it in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Sorry for the blur: it was such a dark and gloomy camping trip.

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While that’s going on, finely chop up as well 1 red pepper, 2 large tomatoes and a garlic clove or two (I roasted some garlic before I left so I brought it along and mashed it in).

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Add that to the pan as well as 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (the Pie is mad for chili flakes, so I may have added extra).

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Season that with salt and pepper, then cover and let that simmer for about 10 minutes, until you have a lovely sort of almost-sauce. Dig a few holes in the sauce and crack in 2 or more eggs. Cover the pan and let that cook for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking.

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We served ours with a bit of grated cheese on top, and a roll of bread on the side and it was a super satisfying lunch!

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S’meaches: In the Woods

Summer is drawing to a close, but why not give it one last hurrah with this gorgeous take on the traditional s’more treat? I saw this video a few years ago and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since.  Step one is building yourself a good fire and getting a nice consistent flame. I like to grill things in the coals so it’s a good idea to have this going for a while before you’re ready to have dessert. I apologize in advance for the terrible quality of these photos. There’s only so much you can do when your only light source is a campfire. If you want pretty pictures, check out the above video.

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Grab yourself 2-3 fresh peaches. August is peach season in Ontario so these are like fuzzy heaven to eat.

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Remove the pit by halving the peach and then slice the halves horizontally into peach patties.

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Mix together 1 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cayenne (or more if you’re feeling adventurous). Dredge your peach slices in the brown sugar and cayenne mixture. Grab a package of large marshmallows and jam a marshmallow on your roasting stick, together with a slice of peach.

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Roast until you get it the way you like it. The sugar should be all caramelized on your peach, and the marshmallow should be exactly as you wish.

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Smush the contents of your roasting stick between two graham crackers and shove it in your face.  Repeat as necessary.  And it WILL be necessary.

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Chicken with Tarragon Butter: In the Woods

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This is a great make-ahead meal for two for a short camping trip from The Camping Cookbook. I froze all the ingredients before we left so they would stay cool and solid until I needed them.  Feel free to increase the recipe if you have more campers. You may have seen a few teaser shots of this from last week, because I was so very clever in my pre-preparation.

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Start with 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Slice those in half, lengthwise, so you have four long strips.  If you think those strips are too big, slice the breasts into three or four, depending on your preference.

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Mix together your marinade of  1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 teaspoons olive oil.

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Shove your chicken into the marinade for at least 30 minutes(I put mine in a plastic container and froze it).

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Meanwhile, mix up your lovely compound butter.

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Stir together 1/4 cup softened butter with 1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, and a finely minced shallot (use 1/4 of a small onion if that’s all you have).

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I chucked this in the freezer as well.

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When you’re ready to go, pull your (thawed) chicken out of the marinade and grill it on the fire/stove until cooked through, which will depend on how thick you sliced it. This looks sickly because it was gloomy under the tarp where I was cooking and I needed a flashlight to see…

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Serve hot with dollops of the tarragon butter on top. I actually forgot to pull out the butter until we were all done so I put it in the hot pan to let it melt.

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We served this with some peas and corn and garlic mashed potatoes.

For the peas and corn, mix together 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup frozen corn and steam for a minute or so until cooked.

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Toss the cooked vegetables with 1/4 cup finely chopped mint and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Again, I mixed the herbs into the butter ahead of time and froze it.

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For the potatoes, boil and mash 2 potatoes of your choosing. I like to leave the skins on.

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Scoop in 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 2 teaspoons mixed herbs (fresh or dried, your choice), and 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I made a compound of this ahead of time) and serve.

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TADA. Gourmet in the woods.

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Creamy Ricotta, Mint, and Garlic Pasta with Peas: In the Woods

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This particular dish, from The Camping Cookbook, is supposed to be served hot, but I thought it would make a nice cold lunch for us to eat after setting up camp on the first day.  So I ended up making all of this ahead of time, at home (which means that technically I didn’t make it in the woods).

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Start by boiling up about 150g of your favourite short pasta. The original recipe calls for ziti, but I love fusili so that’s what I used. Cook it according to the package directions, and drain it and return it to the pot when it’s ready.

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While that’s cooking, cut yourself about 1 tablespoon fresh mint and chop that up.

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Thaw about 1/2 cup frozen peas (or fresh, if you’ve got ‘em). I added this element to the recipe for the sake of vitamins. Don’t want to get scurvy while camping.

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Mash up as well some roasted garlic (I roasted a few heads of this the week before and it pretty much went into everything).

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While the cooked pasta is still hot, stir in 1/3 cup ricotta cheese and 1/3 cup heavy cream (I wimped out here and used half and half).

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Add in your mint, peas, and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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We served this cold with a nice toasted garlic bread I prepared in advance: slice up a small baguette so that you have individual pieces but they’re still stuck together at the bottom.

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Chop up some fresh herbs: parsley, basil, and oregano (dried is also fine).

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Mush up some roasted garlic.

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Smush those all together with some pepper.

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Add softened (this is too softened) butter and mix.

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Insert the butter between the slices and wrap in tin foil until you’re ready to eat.

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You can toast the bread directly on your camp stove, or you can put it in an Outback Oven, or you can roast it directly over the campfire.

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Either way, it’s excellent.

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A-Camping We Will Go: In the Woods

This weekend we are going camping for the first time since we were in Gros Morne in 2011.  The Pie and I have always loved camping – we find it so relaxing to have that forced disconnect from the bustle of urban living, where your only concern is how to fill the time between meals.

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Now, we camp with our car, and a bunch of stuff (see picture). While we *could* concern ourselves with weight allowances and space and shove everything we own into a backpack full of tiny expensive camping equipment, we choose not to. Camping for us is a holiday, not an exercise in survival. Still, even with the ability to shove everything you own in a car to keep it warm and dry you still have to do a certain amount of forward-thinking, and this year I wanted to carry that organization over into our meal planning.

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Normally we pick up groceries on the way to the campsite and kind of wing our meals throughout our stay. This leaves us at the end with a lot of bizarre leftovers: squashed, soggy hamburger buns, marshmallows melted into their plastic bag, huge jars of condiments, and cheese with elements of pine needle in it. We end up throwing most of it out, and we also get really sick of hot dogs by the end of our trip.

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This time I vowed things would be different, and that we would come out of it with as little waste as possible, while still enjoying high-quality meals.  It meant, however, that I had to plan – though if you know me by now, you know that this is where I excel, and I have the collection of wee containers to prove it.   So here I’m introducing a new category today: In the Woods, in homage to the great dishes I have already produced in the middle of nowhere.  Starting Monday, and for the next several posts after that, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the fruits of my planning.  And if you’re not a huge fan of the great outdoors, all of these recipes can be made at home, too!

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adventures in grown-up living

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