Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gathering Together Farm-A Sweet Little Detour

When we left AM Solar in Springfield, Deb sketched out a route for us to follow to get over to the Oregon Coast. The route took us into Philomath (the name of the town is derived from two Greek words meaning lover of learning).  When Deb was giving me directions, she mentioned that there was an organic bakery in town, so Jim and I drove up and down Main Street looking for it.  Not spotting an obvious bakery, Jim ran into the bank and the teller gave us directions to a place called Gathering Together Farm.  She said that even if it wasn't the place we were looking for we would love it.  That turned out to be the understatement of the day.

As we pulled into the parking lot we began to fall in love with this magical place.  The flowers were just exploding with color in front of the entrance to the restaurant.  All the windows and wood and greenery was so inviting and warm.  As we entered through the looking glass, oops, I mean through the sliding glass door, a smiling face welcomed us and seated us near the window.  When we sat down the greenhouse seating area was empty except for another couple, but by the time we left people were  outside waiting in the garden area for a seat.  The area we had lunch in was filled with flowers, hand hewn wood posts, warm wood tables and a huge wood fired oven at the end of the room.  Everything felt inviting and it felt like we had stumbled upon a truly magical place.  The sunlight shown through all the windows and filled the dining area with light and warmth.

Little artistic touches appear throughout 

Windows and plants surround you -giving you the feeling you are eating outside in the garden

This little green door leads to another dining area and the shop where fresh organic produce is sold and where the absolutely delectable bakery goods are.

We arrived at the perfect time-just prior to a huge rush -tables were already being held for reservations.

Our waitress,Amanda, came over and introduced herself and told us about the menu and how incredible the pork belly appetizer was.  Well she had me at pork belly !  Turns out Amanda's father,like Jim's father was a coal miner.  Amanda grew up in a West Virginia "holler" ; Jim and I knew exactly what she was talking about.  After getting her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Boston and New York she decided she wanted wide open spaces and headed west.  The old eeny meeny miney mo routine,  got her to Corvallis .  She has only been with the restaurant for about 6 months. The farm has been around for 25 years !

Watching our pizza go into the wood fired oven.

We decided on the pork belly and pizza.  As we waited for our meal we just couldn't believe how fortunate and blessed we were to stumble upon this place.  It's one of those places that is so gracious and welcoming and warm-it's like going to your favorite grandmother's place.  But a grandmother who can create the most delicious food we have ever tasted !

The incredible fire roasted pork belly with ceci (chickpeas) and peppers.

Fresh basil, from just outside the front door,on our garlic,basil,tomato and mozzarella pizza .

Jim and I split the pizza,although I would have arm wrestled him for it if necessary-so very good.

Everything was so fresh, it tasted like it does when you pick something out of your own garden.  Anything we asked about from the pork belly to the cheese to the flowers was local from a "farm just down the road".   The Chef, J.C. Mersmann is a charcuterie enthusiast who previously worked at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse and also is a Michelin recognized chef .  Everything he creates is based on the abundance of the farm,a farm-to-fork experience in the most delicious sense.

Farm fresh organic produce from the store

Jim trying to convince me we needed pickled jalapeno peppers.  We left with our arms filled with freezer jam,fresh bread,molasses cookies and a lemon cake.

And everything here is cooked and baked with love

I don't know how we didn't devour this bread before we got to our campsite !

Okay, I have to say, the best freezer jam I have ever tasted !

Good bye wonderful,magical,delicious Gathering Together Farm-we will be back 

After reading about their  Wine Dinners I've put attendance at one of them at the top of my foodie wish list-will it be August or September ?  I will let you know ♥  I'll bet you will want to do the same after reading this article that so beautifully describes a recent dinner.

So if you are ever in the area of Corvallis, Oregon I encourage you to make the trip to this wonderful place-it's a journey you will never forget.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

AM Solar

This is what we had done over Memorial Day- 300 watts of solar power !

Wednesday morning we left for Springfield,Oregon with AM Solar being our final destination.  We did our research over the last few months and knew we wanted to add solar panels to Ruby.  Roadtrek is retrofitting models with solar now but we would have to get to Kitchener, Ontario (5000 miles roundtrip) to have it done and that part of North America isn't on our travel plans until 2015 !  We didn't want to wait until then for solar.  So after much research we decided on AM Solar; they have been in business for 26 years and came highly recommended by a multitude of our fellow RVers.

When we pulled into the property we were impressed by how meticulous and clean everything was.  And they have a beautiful piece of land in the commercial area that is right along the river.  You don't even feel like you are in an industrial area.  Jim and I laughed and said overnighting in their parking lot was nicer than some campgrounds we have been at . Rodger got us set up with the 30 amp cord and told us what we could expect in the morning.  We quickly set up camp and knew that we would be starting to unload Ruby early in the morning so after a quick dinner and walk around the property we went straight to bed.

We met the entire AM Solar family in the morning-Dave,Rodger,Deb and Gregg along with our 2 fabulous installers and sweet Sammy the dog.  As soon as I saw the shop area, I knew we were in good hands.  Everything was meticulously clean and in order.  Being just slightly OCD myself I felt that if they took such good care of their tools and property then their work would be performed at even higher standards-and I wasn't wrong.

After we went through a walk through with the crew we decided that yes we would remove the antenna, we weren't using it anyway, and it would add another 100 watt panel for us. Score !

I wish I would have taken pictures of the waiting room-again the same attention to detail for their customers.  A huge RV library covered one wall; there was a dining room table for spreading out our laptop and Kindles on; a comfy couch that could convert to a bed if we didn't want to spend the night in Ruby; snacks,soda,water,coffee,tea, a fabulously clean restroom and access to another bathroom with a full shower-Score again ! They started working on Ruby at 8am and finished up at 830 pm so being comfortable all day was important and they took great care of us.  We did spend quite a bit of time outside enjoying the beauty of the property.  And they took care of lunch for us-no detail missed.  They offered us dinner but the lunch was so huge we passed  and finished our leftovers.

After everyone went home we re-loaded Ruby with everything that had been moved out of the way for the installers . We went to sleep, excited about our solar walk through in the morning with Gregg.

Wow, overwhelming is an understatement with all the information Gregg shared with us about our new solar system.  He's very patient and very helpful-he explains things clearly and you don't have to have an electrician's license to understand.

Our new best friend

This is a picture of our new best friend.  After we left AM Solar we headed to the Washington Coast and a return trip to Cape Disappointment.  We reserved a site with no hook ups to test out our new solar !  And it did not disappoint-there are still many things we need to learn but it was nice not having to run the generator like everyone else in the campground.  And even though it was rainy and overcast our little solar baby was still charging. 

Site 106 at Cape Disappointment

We started day dreaming about all the places we could go with solar now and not have to worry about electric hook ups ! So looking forward to starting our Road Trip of a lifetime in December ! Thanks again to  Gregg and Deb and their entire crew at AM Solar -you guys rock .  If want solar on your rig contact these folks-you won't regret it .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kayaks and Sunsets at Crane Prairie RV Resort, OR

Where has the time gone ?  It's been 10 days since we returned from our Oregon trip.  I've been working like crazy on the house. Stripping wallpaper,packing up things for Goodwill,sorting books,sorting clothing,painting and weeding ! Whew,I'm tired just listing those things.  Oregon was beautiful and we returned well rested and ready to tackle those jobs and many many more-getting ready to part with the house and its contents.  I got so busy with working around the house I forgot to tell you about the campground we discovered south of Bend, OR.

 Crane Prairie RV Resort,just off the Cascade Highway in the Three Rivers area.  Elevation is almost 4500 ft. so we had warm sunny days and cool nights for sleeping-perfect.  The campground ,Crane Prairie RV Resort  is basic with full hookups-we pretty much stayed either on the lake or at the campsite so I can't tell you anything about the bathrooms or store.  The owners have gotten some bad press on Trip Advisor for their attitudes but honestly they were extremely nice and friendly to us. We had a nice view of the lake from our campsite.  The sites are a little close together but the trees and brush give you privacy.

We got to try out our new kayaks on the lake and it was so much fun.  We made the right decision in spending a little more for the longer kayak and I'm glad we did-it's almost as solid as a hard shell kayak.  The lake was as smooth as glass so it was a great experience in learning how to paddle. I discovered I still have a lot to learn about paddling and feathering !

 We were worried that Hailey wouldn't like the kayaks and that we would have to leave her inside Ruby while we were out on the lake, but that was not the case.  She jumped right onto the front of Jim's kayak. She laid calmly while  looking out on the lake as Jim paddled.  I thought for sure there would be some pet oriented kayak seat for sale online  but  I haven't been able to find one (except for 5-10lb dogs !).  We are going to try and build our own so she will have a more rigid surface to lay on .

I won't tell you the story of folding the kayaks back up to fit into their storage bags.  You know how anything you unpack never packs up the same way again and never seems to fit back into the bag it came out of ?  All I can say is I went inside Ruby and poured myself a Mojito after figuring out my feedback to Jim wasn't very helpful. The clue was the look he gave me when I said "just fold it into 3rds".  We both eventually figured it out and hopefully they won't be twisted kayaks when we use them again !

This is supposed to be a great fishing lake , but shhh, don't tell my husband.  It seems to be more successful for trolling than for fly fishing-oh well he enjoyed himself anyway.

We saw some of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever experienced while camping here. We would just sit down by lake and watch the skies change minute by minute-always a nice ending to the day. I can't believe the life we live.  We both feel so very blessed for every minute we have together on this earth.

I also tried baking bread on the Cobb grill for the first time.  Do you know how difficult it is to regulate coals when baking bread ?  The bread didn't rise like it usually does when I bake it at home-too much heat too fast.  And the bottom was just slightly blackened, but the bread was still so good . I'm going to try the Cobb again after reading about pushing the coals over to one side and baking the bread on the other side.  Plus I'm going to add a layer of sand around the cast iron pot and see if that helps.  I used Jim Lahey's recipe for No Knead Bread-even when you screw it up , it's still delicious !

We hated to leave -the weather was perfect again when we got up on our last morning-bright blue skies,huge cottony white clouds and sun streaming through the trees-life really is good.

After we checked out downtown Bend we headed east .  We weren't sure what the camping situation was like between Bend and Salem but figured we would stumble upon somewhere to park Ruby.  No cell reception in the mountains so I couldn't use any of the apps I have on my phone for locating campsites-so I grabbed the map (old fashioned way) and saw there were quite a few along the highway so we weren't worried.  The first one we stopped at around 3pm was full-oh oh-we didn't plan on that. So we headed a little further down the road and pulled into the next site-Whispering Falls.

 It was pretty much empty and we couldn't figure out why.  It was clean, the sites were very private and it was along the Santiam River.  We pulled into site #7,paid our $7.00 for the night and had a cold beer . We decided the beer would taste better along the river so we  headed down over the hill to the river.  Down over the hill was just about 50ft from where Ruby was parked so we hauled our chairs,beer,chips and salsa down to the sandy riverbank.  Perfect way to spend the late afternoon following a day of driving.  Feet in the river,cold beer in hand and side by side with my sweetie , a sweet life !

Now that Ruby is all cleaned out; laundry done; bed made; dishes rearranged and the road food bag replenished, we are ready to hit the road again .  Next up , Springfield OR. and a solar install for Ruby at AM Solar.  Can't wait for the independence solar will give us !   Happy Trails and safe journeys to you all.

"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Thursday, May 9, 2013

More of the Oregon Coast-Good Times-Good Food

 83 degree weather makes you want to jump in the ocean !

I feel so blessed on this vacation-beautiful weather is following us.  And if you can believe it, the beach is pretty much deserted-only about 1/2 dozen people out walking.  The water is a little chilly yet but who cares,it feels so good to walk barefoot in the sand again. And I can't say enough about the quality of Oregon Parks-how can they get it so right and others can't ?  Clean,reasonably priced $25 a night during peak and $20 during non peak.  Free solar showers that are incredibly wonderful and clean restrooms !  There are 2 campground hosts and they are very helpful.  I could live here if there wasn't a limit on the time you stay.

 Oregon Tuna Melt-perfect lunch for our last day at Beachside

I didn't purposely plan on making an Oregon Tuna Melt and I have no idea what makes it an Oregon Tuna Melt-but it's a delicious sandwich and Jim wants it added to my permanent cooking repertoire.Albacore tuna,red onions,pickles, Swiss cheese-oh so good and not difficult to make. The recipe makes 4 grilled sandwiches-so we had 2 for lunch and had the leftovers while on the road to Bend,Oregon. This sandwich is made with balsamic vinegar instead of mayonnaise why didn't I think of that ?  Thank you Huffington Post Taste section for the recipe.
Oregon Tuna Melt
2 6-ounce cans albacore tuna 
1/4 cup(s) finely diced red onion 
1/4 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon(s) balsamic vinegar 
1 tablespoon(s) minced basil 
1/2 teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
4 ciabatta rolls, split
Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, for spreading
8 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese, 6 ounces 
Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickle 
2 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter, softened 
1. In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. 2. Heat a panini press or griddle. Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and mayonnaise and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna salad on the bottoms and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter. 3. Add the sandwiches to the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

 Slathered with SPF30 !

 Travis and LaDonna, a lovely Roadtreker couple from Durango,CO

Travis and LaDonna were making their maiden voyage in the Roadtrek and had lots of questions for us-and we are still babes in the woods when in comes to some things.  We gave them information on all the sites we go to when we have questions ! They had come up the coast and were on their way back to Durango, CO.  Just really nice , sweet people.

Ahh another beautiful end of day at the beach

I don't want this trip to end-Jim is going to have to forcibly remove both Hailey and me from the beach-my feet are firmly planted in the sand. After this time at the beach we are both of the mindset that when we do settle down it's probably going to be on a beach somewhere.

Healthy and spicy-our last dinner at the beach-Mojo Chicken

Jim and I both are trying to be healthier so I was very careful in looking for tasty but not fat busting recipes !  I'm struggling to lose the weight I gained when my life came to a halt with Lyme Disease-so exercise and eating right are my new best friends. Don't be frightened by this recipe-it has quite a few ingredients but it is oh so good.  We had tacos with the leftovers ! I found this recipe on the Whole Foods web site.
Mojo Chicken
1 tablespoon cumin seeds 
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
2 tablespoons chopped garlic 
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño 
Salt, to taste
 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons orange juice, strained 
2 tablespoons lime juice, strained 
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves 

Avocado Mango Salsa 
1/2 cup orange juice, strained 
1/4 cup lime juice, strained 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons chopped garlic 
1 tablespoon orange zest 1 tablespoon honey 
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
Salt, to taste 
1 cup diced avocado 
1 cup diced mango
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
6 cups bite-size pieces lettuce (romaine, butter, red leaf or a combination) 
1/2 cup toasted, salted cashews

Method: For the Mojo Chicken, heat a medium skillet over medium high heat, add cumin seeds and toast, stirring constantly, until fragrant and slightly darker in color, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the cilantro, jalapenos and salt. Mash the mixture with the back of fork to form a coarse paste. Set aside.
In the same skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until very hot, but not smoking, about 3 minutes. Carefully pour hot oil over garlic-cilantro paste. (Be careful because the oil will sizzle and may splatter.) Whisk to blend and let rest for 10 minutes, or until cool.
When garlic-cilantro oil is at room temperature, whisk in orange and lime juices to make a marinade. Pour the marinade into a wide, shallow dish, add the chicken, turn to coat, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours. 
For the avocado mango salsa, whisk orange juice, lime juice, oil, garlic, zest, honey, soy sauce, and salt together to make a dressing. Transfer 6 tablespoons of the dressing to a bowl and toss together gently with the avocado and mango to make a salsa. Set salsa and remaining dressing aside.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and drain. Add chicken to skillet and cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a platter, let rest for 5 minutes then cut each chicken breast horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices. 
To serve, toss remaining dressing with the lettuce and mound onto 4 plates. Arrange chicken atop the greens and spoon the mango and avocado salsa over the chicken. Sprinkle with cashews and serve.

Ruby's all packed and ready to go-Tuesday,May 2

Our  favorite beach town along the Oregon Coast-Yachats-would love to live here !

It so reminds me of Mendocino 

 Home of incredibly delicious cinnamon croissants  

 We took Hwy 126 and pretty much followed the beautiful McKenzie River for about 130 miles

 Our little lunch spot along the river

Breathtaking Mount Washington just outside Sisters Oregon

I'm playing blog catch up and we are now at Crane Prairie RV Resort just south of Bend, OR.  The trip over from the coast was just breathtaking.  Sunny blue skies, the river alongside us and the mountain forests all around us.  We drove longer that we usually do since we decided not to make an overnight stop along the way-we were destination bound !  Happy to say we arrived at Crane Prairie on Tuesday and will be there until Friday.  Then we are heading into downtown Bend to check out the town-another possible place to settle down-I know NO OCEAN-but it has the Deschutes River and gorgeous mountains.  We shall see. Happy Trails-safe journeys to all of you.