Last weekend I spent a couple of days with three of my best girlfriends up at the cabin. Notice I italicized cabin. This is because the one friend, to whom this cabin belongs, used to employ herself as an interior designer. Needless to say, while there is definitely a rustic feel to the place, it is nothing like the cabins my little sister and I used to sleep in during our summers at Rancho Verde camp. An oasis of outdoor merriment and adventure for kids aged 7-16, (counselors were 18-20), tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The rustic cabins at camp had wooden floors with holes so large they served as grand entrances for spiders and other creepy, crawly things. Karen’s cabin also has wooden floors but hers are finished and shiny, and no holes. I don’t recall our cabins at camp having windows. Karen’s cabin not only has several very large picture windows, they are draped with charming fabrics and blinds. And her cabin doesn’t have that woody, hot musty scent our cabins had. Don’t get me wrong, my sister and I loved Rancho Verde. Every summer spent, we had loads of fun and made wonderful friends we swore we would keep forever. We rode horses, well my sister did. I cried when my horse threw me off, so I committed myself to archery instead. We swam, we rowed, we made lanyards with colorful strands of plastic folded over and over in a kind of braid and the geometric gum wrapper chains. Tons of wood carving and jewelry making with an assortment of beads in multitudes of patterns. Lest I forget, every camper’s favorite and most looked forward to event, our monthly field trip to the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. Departing after dinner and wearing special bracelets that allowed us to ride any ride in the park as many times as we wished was so freeing and blasted cool. All along our way to the Beach & Boardwalk we raised our voices in song about 100 bottles of beer and Mary-Mack, but by late evening, the ride back to camp in rickety vans, hardly a sound was heard. Sleep was already upon us as we shuffled and stumbled our way back to our cabins.
My grownup girlfriends and I slept in beds with complete sets of sheets, as opposed to bunk beds and mattresses with sleeping bags thrown on top. Mornings at Rancho Verde started early with a real bugle blowing reveille. By whom we never knew, but they blared the universal signal to rise and shine! It was time to meet at the flag pole for the pledge of allegiance and calisthenics. We’d make our way through the morning mist then march into the mess hall for runny scrambled eggs, fatty bacon and very, (or sometimes barely), brown toast and a tepid glass of Tang. Our mornings at Duck Creek started out with whispered conversations regarding the beauty and grandeur outside our windows with watchful eyes for deer as we sipped hot coffee, later followed by light and fluffy feta cheese omelets.
Rancho Verde offered chilly evenings of spooky stories and roasted marshmallows around the campfire. But last weekend we enjoyed more adult camp night-time activities such as crocheting, chatting and sipping wine while nibbling on French cheeses, fruits and pieces of bread torn from a baguette. Summer camp was great! – Girls’ weekend at the cabin provides those things we crave and almost need as we grow older; comfort with solace and grace, shared with good friends. Every day, the girls and I engaged in a vigorous morning hike and riding Rhinos, (RTV’s). On Saturday, we took a little afternoon trip to the shoppy-shops at Duck Creek Village and purchased a few treasures. Karen picked out a most vibrant scented candle bowl, one that will only accentuate the woodsy, pine and earthy aromas that sweep and swirl around her cabin. I chose a handcrafted ceramic hand. In its open position I can use it a most unique cookbook holder. I also found an antique-looking magnifying glass. The silver handle is ornately designed yet perfect for holding onto while reading the smallest of prints.
Best of all, each day ended with a well thought out meal prepared with care and gratitude.
While all four of us are cognizant of our overall health, and yes, a couple of the gals are dieting, holding ourselves in a culinary check didn’t mean we ignored our lusty appetites.
The menus were pretty much “lean and green” with the exception of that wine and cheese. Saturday night we feasted on Portobello Mushrooms stuffed with a slimmed-down version of Spinach Dip, finished off with grated cheese in the broiler. I prepared Red Qunioa with a Medley of Roasted Vegetables and for something different, my gal-pals allowed me to experiment on them by serving a root vegetable I discovered called Malanga.
Malanga is a staple in the Cuban diet. Its skin is a rough, patchy, brown with a white or yellowish interior. This high calorie root is purported to be one of the most hypoallergenic food on the planet! This is due to the small starch grains, making for an easily digested complex carbohydrate. Those who suffer from certain food allergies would do well with malanga flour.
I simply peeled 2 large tubers, rough cut them into chunks and boiled until tender. Then served them up as a side dish topped with only a sprinkling of salt, a dab of unsalted butter and lightly garnished with chopped parsley. But the rave reviews were all about my Red Quinoa.
Recipe for Red Quinoa
1 cup Red Quinoa 2 cups vegetable broth
½ each; sliced red onion, halved small mushrooms, sliced yellow bell pepper
cubed eggplant, scallions 2-3 garlic cloves – peeled & smashed
½ cup crumbled goat cheese ½ golden or mixed raisins
1) Rinse and drain Quinoa
2) Place prepared veggies, (you can also use a medley of your own choice-great way to use left overs) and garlic on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in 375-400 degree oven until edges are slightly brown
3) Meanwhile, pour Quinoa and broth into a 2 quart saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Don’t stir while cooking.
4) The Quinoa is done when the grains appear soft. Fluff with a fork into serving bowl/s
5) Stir in raisins, top with crumbled goat cheese - taste for seasoning if needed.
Makes 8 4-oz Servings
|Red Quinoa w/left over carrots grren beans and cipollini onions|
|Portobello stuffed w/low-cal spinach dip and Malanga on the side|