Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Big Green What?

"A Big Green what?" is pretty much the reaction of anyone who isn't familiar with it when I mentioned we were getting one.  That would be a Big Green Egg.  It's a ceramic grill.  But not just any ceramic grill.

It's the grill that the hubby has been lusting after for over 10 years.  The grill he's talked about getting for as long as I've known him.  The grill he not so secretly salivates over when he sees it in someone's yard.  Imagine a grown man wistfully lamenting, "Aw man, they have a Big Green Egg!"  I'm so glad he finally pulled the trigger on his mini-obsession!  He deserves it.

Once he assembled the base and put it all together, the next inevitable question was, "What's the first thing we should cook on the new hotness grill?"

After some back and forth, we settled on the obvious answer.  Ribs.  Of course.  So, we trotted our little butts down to the commissary to pick up some ribs and begin the inaugural Big Green Egg-athon.  Yeah, baby.

Slab 'o pork

The hubby has a dry rub he's been using for years that's tasty on pretty much any meat you feel like grilling.  Couldn't tell ya what's in it, but it's always good!  He slow cooked the ribs for about 4 hours and they turned out fabulous.

It turned out to be a Big Green Egg weekend.  Because after the inaugural rib dinner, we ended up doing pizza on the grill the next night.  The pizza was even better than when we cook it in the oven because the internal temperature of the grill gets the pizza stone so much hotter - which equals a crispier, perfectly cooked crust.

Almost there!  - Half pepperoni, half red pepper

I've decided I need to take ownership and get a handle on the ins and outs of cooking with the new grill.  Stay tuned for my first meal on the Egg!

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Now I know what you're thinking.  If you're going to have a burger...then have a burger.  Right?  I mostly agree, but the portobello burger has its place too.  And the secret to this one is most definitely in the marinade.

It's nothing but simple, but the final product is, well nothing but tasty.  I don't remember where I found the recipe, so I'll include it at the end of this post.

We've made these before with delicious results, but I made a tiny mistake this time around.  The recipe calls for marinating the mushrooms for 2 hours, and I marinated them for more like 7 hours.  Oops!  The final product turned out a tad too salty because it sat for too long, so I recommend following the marinating time exactly.

We had a beautiful sunny day for grilling up our "burgers." I can't help but laugh at how damn pale we are these days.  The hubby jokes that he's so pale that he looks like a corpse that's been in the water for a few days.  I'm right there with him. - Gone are the days of the flip-flop feet tan!

A little bit of basting during the sear on the grill & the portobellos get nice and happy.

We served them on potato rolls with a little bit of melted mozzarella, leftover potato salad, and a side salad.  Delicioso!  It's an easy and flavorful meal that's just made for summer-time.  

And you know what makes it taste even better?  Following the marinating time of 2 hours.  Ha.  Scroll down for the recipe.

Ta-ta for now.


Monday, June 15, 2015

♪ On Top of Monashka, All Covered with Cheese... ♫ Not Really.

I feel like someone ran over me with a truck.  Like, a giant 18-wheeler.  This is when you ask me, why is that, buttercup?

We decided to do a day hike up Monashka Mountain and camp overnight at the top this past weekend.  It was incredible and I'm glad we did it.  But.  You knew there had to be a but, right?  The short answer is the hike kicked my ass.

The Pugbull is ready to hike!

Put it this way - I've only day hiked.  This was my first overnight.  You know what's a really big deal with an overnight hike?  Weight.  Weight in your pack.  Because you're hauling all that crap up the mountain with you.  Note to self:  do not pack the two lb hard cover library book thinking you're going to read up there.  Not gonna happen.

Thanks for nothing, Neil Gaiman. (It was his 460-something page novel, American Gods)  Go ahead, ask me how many pages I read.  That's right, zero.  Just added a couple of pounds to my back for the joy of it.

Second note to self:  Hoofing twenty lbs on your back up to an 1,800 foot elevation is...intense.  What a friggin' workout!  Oh, but we were so bright eyed and bushy tailed when we set out:

I had no concept of what I was in for!

And hubby was the total pack-horse.  I'm bitching about the weight in my pack, but his was double.  For real - forty pounds of gear.  We weighed it before we left.  He carried the tent, sleeping bags, food, water, etc, etc.  God bless him.

All the stuff!

His pack was designed for loads like this, with a weight belt to counterbalance the load and all sorts of bells and whistles for back country hiking.  But heavy is heavy.  Lesson learned for both of us:  We don't need that much stuff.

After about an hour and a half, I looked about like this.  My sisters will commiserate with tomato face syndrome during exercise.  It's dead sexy.

That peanut butter crunch Clif bar was heaven

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other!  This isn't even halfway.

After the - we'll just call it challenging - hike up Monashka, we set up camp in a nice flat, alpine tundra with a spectacular 360 degree view.

I second guessed a lot of the things I chose to pack, but not one thing.  One of the heaviest items in my bag.  5 cans of Coors Light & a cold pack to keep them frosty.  Probably 5 lbs of weight.  Worth it!

I can't even explain to you how fabulous that first frosty sip was after the grueling trek up to our 1,800 ft camp.  And Coors Light isn't even really my beer.  I thought about that cold deliciousness as motivation the whole damn way up.  Like I said - worth it!

We had a surprisingly tasty dinner of freeze dried chili mac and cheese.  Or maybe it's just that when you burn that many calories at one time, anything tastes good.  Cardboard sandwich?  Yes, please, may I have another?  The hubby was our chef for the evening. And by chef I mean boil water and pour it in the pouch. 

We had a super cool Jet Boil contraption to cook

Cheety was highly interested in my chili mac

Speaking of his highness, in the morning after our camp, Cheety decided to tear ass down the mountain after...wait for it.  Mountain goats.  He bolted after them in a woefully unsuccessful attempt at herding.  I guess he needed a reminder that he isn't in fact a goat herder.  Don't tell him that, though.

I thought he was going to hurl himself off the mountain in his over-the-top exuberance about the goats.  They just casually glanced over at him and toddled away on the cliff side.  Maybe he was a cattle dog in his past life.  After that debacle, his roaming privileges were revoked.  Can't be having Pugbulls fling themselves off cliff sides.

That's a naughty goat dog!

We were treated to a gorgeous sunset at the typical summer in Alaska hour of 11:10PM.  We're about a week from the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and then the days start getting shorter again.  The sunset didn't disappoint.

I'm glad we pulled the trigger and committed to the mountain over night camping trip.  It was beautiful, and unforgettable in all sorts of ways.  Good & bad!  But, I don't know whether I'd want to embark on a part two!  Maybe a less intense hike.  Something a little more low key at perhaps a lower elevation.  And no hard cover books in the pack!  But beers?  Oh, yes.

Ta-ta for now.

I love this family picture!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Alutiiq Dancers

You'd think after working for the Sun'aq Tribe during my first year here in Kodiak I would have seen the Alutiiq Dancers perform at some point.  Yeah.  Nope!  The dancers are organized and coordinated through the Sun'aq Tribe, but for some reason I'd only seen videos.  So, I made it a point to get down to Crabfest this year for their performance.  I wasn't disappointed!

Kodiak's Crabfest was a few weeks ago, and it's the unofficial kick-off to summer around here.  There are all sorts of events, food, crafts, and art to check out at Crabfest, but my goal this year was to watch the dancers do their thing.

The Alutiiq Dancers are unique to Alaska, and their traditional dance regalia, beaded headdresses, hats, masks, face paint and songs are a one of a kind experience to see in person.

The dance troupe performed a half a dozen or so songs, with short introductions before each number to explain the subject and history of the song, and where the song was learned. They sang both traditional and contemporary Alutiiq songs with subjects ranging from cooking, to kayaking, to thanking the audience for listening.

As the dancers swayed and chanted, the rhythmic drum beat of a traditional bentwood skin drum maintained their uniform tempo with a repetitive, deep thrum. The combination of the rhythmic drum beat, chanting, and in-sync dancing adds up to a unique show.  You can see the back side of the drum here:

The dancers are a diverse group of all ages, both men and boys and women and girls.  Sometimes Tribal elders perform with the group, but I didn't have the privilege of seeing that this time.  I bet it takes on an even more special and spiritual feel when Tribal Elders participate. 

I really enjoyed watching their show, and seeing some of my former co-workers so passionate about sharing their culture in such a fun way.  So, I should say Quyanaa to them...which means thank you in Alutiiq!

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, June 1, 2015

And Just Like That...We're Green Again

It seems to happen quickly every year.  We'll be truckin' along with our browner than brown mountains...and then boom!  The Kodiak summer time green roars in again.  The depth and magnitude of those summer colors is unbelievable.

Beautiful, vibrant, unforgettable - it seems I ran out of adjectives to describe Kodiak's allure about a year and half ago.  Unfortunately, when you blink, the green is gone just as abruptly as it appeared. 

But since it just started, I'm choosing to look forward to the next few brief months of the aptly named "Emerald Isle."  Because would you just look at that:

The green is still gradually crawling its way up the mountains - not quite there yet!

This is just the beginning of the transition to green, so it's not nearly as intense as it will be in a few weeks.  Those deep, emerald hues are still trickling their way up the mountain peaks.  But, it won't be long now!

We broke the kayaks out for the first time this season last weekend, and it was a gorgeous, sunny, Kodiak at its absolute best kind of day. 

I managed to find myself in the middle of a gull feeding frenzy, so of course I had to pull out the camera to see if I could grab a few shots.  How about those diving gulls?

Action!  They were noisy and erratic as hell!  Can't you just hear them squawking?

It would be more compelling if they were puffins or eagles, but it was still impressive to be right in the mix with them all diving and swooping around.  I was glad I didn't get pooped on.

Speaking of impressive, we had the privilege of seeing an enormous whale glide right up out of the water not far from our boats.  I heard him before I saw him, and he was just far enough away that I didn't freak out. He was twice the size of my kayak.  It was incredible.

This is by far my favorite time of year.  We repeat ourselves often, but it's true:  Kodiak's beautiful when the sun shines.  Too bad it doesn't happen more often.  Can't be too upset about it, though.  After all, the incessant rain is the reason why it gets so green in the summer.  Coastal temperate rainforest = lots of green in the summer, but lots of rain all year round.  I guess that's the trade-off.

I'll be a good little trooper and savor & appreciate the sun while we have it, and I'll do my best to focus on those memorable, sunny days. - And not fixate too intensely on the reality...which is that the best time of year is both fleeting and fickle in how often the sun decides to make an appearance.

Because really - sometimes a week of beautiful weather somehow (unbelievably) makes up for all the gray, dreariness that's the norm in Kodiak.  Remind me I said that after the next two week stretch of not seeing sun or blue sky.  And I'll probably tell you to suck it.  Ha.  Let's hear it for Kodiak summer. - Short-lived, but spectacular as it is!

Ta-ta for now.