January 22, 2012

Bacon, Lobster & Chorizo Burritos

We were a little worried about the rain, but it turned out to be a terrific weekend for a beach trip. We headed down the 15, to the 76 and stopped in a gloomy Oceanside Harbor for lunch at Harbor Fish and Chips before heading into a less gloomy Encinitas and one of Sherry's favorite yarn stores, The Black Sheep.

By the time we got to San Elijo State Beach, it was sunny but sweatshirt temperatures. Like we do on every visit to San Elijo, we had planned on dinner at Bull Taco, but they closed early due to the weather and we settled for Subway sandwiches. Sherry always loves to go beach combing, and the tide was especially low when we got there. We got to walk way out into the tidelands, where we saw lobsters, crabs and sea anemones. Later on we went to a local bar and Sherry had a Huck Finn (blueberries, ginger ale and Jack Daniels).

Sunday morning was looking great, and we started the day with the most amazing Bacon, Lobster and Chorizo burritos. Bull Taco is one of the reasons we are willing to drive so far to camp at the beach. What other beach food stand sells this kind of grub? Their surf and turf is carne asada and grilled shrimp tacos. AMAZING. Check out the video below for a peek in the kitchen. A walk along the bluffs after breakfast provided this treat: a 1949 Oldsmobile Woody with a surfboard rack.

One of the other reasons we like San Elijo is that just a mile or so south is the town of Solana Beach, and especially their Cedros Avenue. This little street is filled with awesome galleries and shops, and then every Sunday afternoon, they have a farmer's market. This makes for a perfect winter beach weekend. Jealous? You should be!

January 16, 2012

The Holy Grail of LED Lamps

Boondocking is camping off the grid, unconnected, and away from it all. This can be a drain on batteries, and there is nothing that spoils "away from it all" like a churning generator. The key is power conservation. I've tried a lot of LED lamps; looking for the right color, the right brightness and the right fit in standard RV fixtures. This is it.

I've installed one of these in three of our most used RV fixtures (the table, the kitchen and the bathroom). I put them in double fixtures so the first click is the low-power-draw LED and the second click is incandescent. When we're boondocking these draw only 3.6 watts of power, while a single incandescent draws 27 watts. The brightness and color is comparable to the incandescent.

I need five more to replace the incandescent bulbs in the three remaining double and two single fixtures. I would need ten more to replace everything in the RV. I'm not in a real hurry to do them all since in a boondock, the three I've already replaced would be our primary lighting.

January 14, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

It has been a while since I've posted anything about food on here. So why the new post? Disneyland closed down the Main Street Carnation Cafe last week and marked the occasion by releasing the recipe for their incredible baked potato soup. I made it today and it will certainly be one I'll be making for a camping trip. 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Serves 6
1 pound bacon, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3/4 cup diced celery
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 medium red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cups heavy whipping cream (I only used 2 cups)
Optional garnishes: chopped chives, bacon bits, sour cream, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving half (if you can) for garnish. In bacon fat, cook onions, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and stir constantly over low heat until the flour is cooked and the mixture has thickened slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes (Disney had the flour after the potatoes, but I moved it here to make a rue). Add potatoes and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock and half of the bacon. Season with salt and pepper (I used a palm full of Kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper). Over medium-high heat, bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Mash some of the potatoes for thicker, creamier texture. Add whipping cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste, and garnish with toppings.

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Sherry and I took a four-mile hike through the Hidden Valley Nature Center on Saturday. This is the wetlands of the Santa Ana River and past home of a duck hunting club. The ponds are now naturalized wetlands and there are nice trails through the area. Near the nature center are a couple of recreated homes of the Tongva people who lived here long before us.

As the new year begins, I traditionally take a look at the calendar and start thinking about the camping trips. Like every other camper, we're limited by a six-month reservation window, but we can think about future goals. We've also got to think about the growing autonomy of a 17 year-old son.

Grand Canyon Lodge
With the cost of gas, we're usually content to stay within a two-hour radius of home. The exception of course is an extended trip every year: In 2011 we went to Florida and Mexico; Sequoia and Yosemite in 2010; plus Big Sur and Zion in 2009. We can't get the RV into Kings Canyon because of vehicle length restrictions, the cabins inside the Grant Grove at King's look interesting, but I can't imagine more than a long weekend there. That exhausts the National Parks within a six-hour drive of home. I could stretch it and look at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but I might prefer the Grand Canyon Lodge over the anxiety of driving the RV that distance. The California State Parks are being hit hard by the economy and it may just be that we end up doing an extended stay without La Rana, or just sticking to weekends. If I were to pick today, it would be a stay at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at the Grand Canyon Lodge.