Monthly Archives: August 2014

Choose your shoes wisely for packing

Shoes

Shoes are the Achilles heel of my one bag packing. Get it? Shoes … heel? Okay, lame, I know.

That said, shoes are heavy and take up a lot of space in your bag. Yet, there is the temptation to want to have the “right” shoes for every occasion you will encounter on your trip. I force myself to stick to the wear-one-pack-one rule, with the possible exception of throwing in a pair of lightweight flip flops as a third pair.

Here are some examples of my shoe choices for various types of trips.

Belize. Activities: snorkeling, hanging out, walking around some Mayan ruins. Shoes: Keen sandals and flip flops. Ditto for Mexico.

New Keen sandals. The old ones were left in Mexico last winter. 🙂

Turkey. Activities: hiking, city walking. Keen sandals, Keen sneaker/walking shoes.

France. Activities: city walking, museums, restaurants, wine tours. Keen Mary Janes, Clark walking shoes.

Australia. City walking, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, rain forest tour, winery tours. Keen sandals, flip flops.

Galapagos. Hiking (including a 10 mile volcano hike, where we were warned to bring sturdy hiking shoes), snorkeling, kayaking, walking. Keen sandals, trail runners, flip flops.

Seeing a pattern? I love my various Keens. I find the sandals very comfortable and versitile for walking and hiking. For longer hikes, wear socks. You can get Keens wet. You can even wear them with a casual dress or skirt. The Keen Mary Janes were also very comfortable for France and looked pretty snazzy with skirts and dresses. Wear them with cool socks, tights, or little tiny Smartwool “hidden” socks.

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In Turkey, the Keen walking shoes were awesome. We hiked a lot in Cappadocia and they were troopers. I also wore them with skirts, but I can be kind of dorky that way. I believe any kind of shoes go with skirts. Well, maybe not gym shoes.

The most important things:

– Be comfortable. Blisters can ruin your trip. You want to go lots of places and you won’t feel like it if your feet hurt.
– Make sure your shoes fit and are comfortable before your trip. If you can’t walk 4 or 5 miles in them at home, you will suffer at the Greek ruins, Paris museums, or the awesome rock formations in Turkey.
– No one cares what you’re wearing.
– Shoes are heavy. Don’t carry around a pair of shoes you will only wear once or twice during your trip. You can go out to dinner in flip flops or Keen sandals. Really. Unless you’re going to a wedding or something, pare down your shoes and one-bag travel will be your friend.

Comfy Clarks walking shoe

Comfy Clarks walking shoe

The French macaron

In May, we took a Viking river cruise in Bordeaux. And I learned about the French macaron. This is not the “macaroon” we are familiar with here, which is made with coconut. This is an almond-based meringue sandwich cookie. They are often made in a variety of colors and flavors with coordinating fillings. You will see green ones (pistachio) or pink (berry) or yellow (lemon) or brown (chocolate, of course).

On the Forseti ship, the chef did a cooking demonstration where she walked us through the process of macaron making. The dough is pretty easy to put together as long as you know how to whip egg whites to stiff (but not dry) peaks. For me, the tricky part is piping the cookies onto a silicone baking mat. I even bought a macaron mat (see photo) that has slight ridges for the cookies … but alas, my piping skills still need work!

Despite my poor piping, two recent batches came out well enough to serve at a reunion of folks who were on the cruise with us. The pink cookies are filled with a raspberry buttercream and the chocolate ones with a ganache.

Here is the recipe I learned on the cruise. I recommend weighing your ingredients, as the other measurements are not very exact.

260 grams powdered sugar (2 cups)
6 egg whites
160 grams almond flour (scant 1.5 cups)
50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)

1. Sieve the powdered sugar and almond flour.
2. In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat the egg whites; gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.
3. Fold in almond mixture.
4. If desired, beat in some food coloring or flavoring. Use a lot of coloring, as the cookies will pale as they bake.
5. Mix with a rubber spatula until the batter is similar to a thick pancake batter.
6. Put into a pastry bag with a large tip or a zipper top bag (cut the corner off to pipe).
7. Pipe small circles onto a silicone mat on a baking sheet. When the batter spreads into a flatter circle, it should be about 1 to 1.25 inches across.
8. Let dry 30-40 minutes.
9. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
10. Cool slightly then remove carefully from mat.
11. Fill cookies as desired and twist to close.

This recipe will make about 60 sandwich cookies.

For the chocolate cookies, I substitute a few tablespoons of cocoa powder for some of the powdered sugar.

For the raspberry buttercream, I heated up a large handful of raspberries in the microwave. I then pushed the warm juicy berries through a strainer. I used this juice in the buttercream along with butter (duh) and powdered sugar.

For the chocolate ganache, I heated 1/2 cup heavy cream in the microwave and then poured it over 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate. I let this sit until the chocolate was melty, then stirred and added about a tablespoon of butter.

A little taste of France! Yes, that is me below wearing a dress to match the raspberry macarons.

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Easy canned salsa

Whenever I get two pounds of romas from the garden, I can a tiny batch of salsa. This is a simple recipe because you whiz it all in the food processor, cook it down, and water-bath can it. If you are not familiar with water bath canning, please consult the Ball canning book or an extension service website. I won’t go into the particulars here, but I don’t want you to get botulism! Do NOT, under any circumstances, omit the vinegar and salt. That would make this recipe very unsafe for canning. And don’t add any extra veggies. You need a lot of acid to make it safe. If you DO fool around with the recipe, don’t can it — just eat it from the fridge.

This makes about 4 half-pints.

Beyond hot salsa, slightly adapted from Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving

2 lbs tomatoes
1 large onion
4 large cloves garlic
4-5 seeded jalepeno peppers
2 small hot dried chiles, seeded
1/4 c cider vinegar
1-2 t dried Mexican oregano
1 t pickling salt

1. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, and peppers in food processor. Process til smooth. Transfer to large pan.

2. Add vinegar, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until salsa is thickened (15-30 mins).

3. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal. Process 20 mins in boiling water bath.