Boysenberry Baby Back Ribs and Planning for the trip of your life

I have just under 30 days before I vacate my apartment and hit the road in an RV — which I technically do not yet have.

I have given away most of my clothes, I have packed up half of my apartment, and I have organized an insane amount of schwag. I pick up some cool promotional things from just about every 5k, festival, fun run, concert and foodie event I attend, which leads to a truly astounding array of can koozies, cup coasters, hats, lighters, posters, ticket stubs, race medals, and other random accoutrements.

And don’t even get me started on my collection of cookbooks. This is maybe half of it.

I have, of course, had my mom here to help me. She was in my apartment before I was even discharged from the hospital (see previous post), and has been here since, helping me with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and all sorts of other things, while my broken back heals.

I have also had other family to come cheer me up and help out; my sister and her partner came from Texas, and my brother came from Ventura county with his wife. It has been wonderful to spend some time with them all, especially since I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.

Aren’t we all adorable?

img_0892

To make a very long story very short, my brother and I, for reasons beyond our control as children, didn’t meet each other until we were adults. Since then we have developed a truly wonderful relationship, but it’s kind of a bummer that we weren’t given the chance to know each other for our whole lives.

Regardless, we are making up for lost time, in the best way ever: with BBQ.

Big brother writes a blog, too, check out his theme park blog at Park Journey. Because he goes on so many trips to theme parks, I get the benefit when he shows up with things like a big bottle of boysenberry concentrate from Knott’s Berry Farm.

9e8dba43-7717-4efa-a3ec-dab055e2fc42

I made the most awesome Boysenberry Baby Back Ribs! (See the end of this post for the recipe.)

We also went out with another friend to check out some RV sales lots, so I can get an idea of what type of vehicle I want. I don’t have a truck (or even a car) so I don’t want something I have to haul, and I need something with a standard bed, i.e., not one I have to climb a ladder to get into, or unfold from a table or something. It’s too hard on my poor broken back!

Anyway, I think I narrowed it down to the type of Class C RV I need for this trip.

I will continue to update as I prepare to take off on this amazing trip of a lifetime. I do not yet have an itinerary; nor do I plan to have one. I have a lot of people I would like to see, and there are a lot of monuments and national parks and just beautiful areas of the country that I’ve never seen, and now that I am running out of time, I am very excited to see. I even splurged and bought myself the best travel gift ever: a brand new, spiral-bound, Adventure Edition road atlas!

img_1172

This baby even has a full section on all of the national parks! I probably won’t be driving to Alaska (although you never know), but other than that, I really want to see all of the national parks. This will be so fun!

And, yes. I am excited. I have something truly life-changing and amazing to look forward to. I know it might seem weird, in fact I got a few comments and messages about how happy I seem to be about a bucket list road trip. All I can say to that is, I learned a lot from when I had breast cancer before; and I learned a lot about control.

When you have cancer, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over your life … you’re told what to eat, what medicines to take, what horrible treatments to do to your body. You feel like your own body is betraying you; like no matter what you do, this cancer is the one in control, not you. And to a certain extent, that is true.

But.

But.

You always have control over your own reactions to things. Sure, you can be a jerk to the nurse treating you, and probably nobody would blame you, because you have cancer and you’re in pain or you’re sick. But being a jerk isn’t going to make you feel any better. It certainly won’t make your treatment any easier.

A positive attitude, sometimes, is all you have.

I’ve always been a happy person. Sure, I have problems like everyone else, but I am generally happy. I have (had) a great career, a house on the beach, a great boyfriend, a wonderful family, amazing friends .. I don’t have a lot to be angry at the world about. And I am sure not going to let cancer take anything else away from me.

Being sick; I can’t control that.

But I can control how I react to it.

I choose not to be afraid.

I choose not to be angry.

I choose to be happy despite the pain.

I choose to make every moment count.

I choose to live my life as I want to live it.

I choose to end it the way I want to end it.

I am going to ride out on the greatest bucket list trip ever. Hopefully I will see everything I want to see, live another five years, and write a great book about my adventures. Maybe I will have to cut my adventure short if I get too sick or am in too much pain. But I will ride as long as I can and see as much as I can for as long as I can.

It’s gonna be so rad!

 

Boysenberry Baby Back Ribs 

(Instant Pot Recipe)

Ingredients:

  • Two (2) baby back rib racks
  •  about 1/2 of 1 bottle of Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry Punch Concentrate, separated (you can purchase online here)
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • about 1/2 diced onion
  • 1-2 heads of crushed garlic
  • smoked salt* and fresh cracked pepper

To prepare:

  1. Place a rack in your Instant Pot inner pot. Add approx. 1/4 of the bottle of boysenberry concentrate and the water to the pot.
  2. Coat the ribs with salt and pepper, and arrange on the rack in the Instant Pot. Set on high pressure for between 15-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. (Don’t overcook, or the ribs will fall apart before you can eat them; more than 30 minutes will have all the meat falling off of the bone no matter how thick the ribs are.)
  3. While the ribs are in the Instant Pot, sauté the diced onion and garlic with the olive oil in a small pot on the stove. Once the onion is translucent, add the tomato paste and the brown sugar, as well as smoked salt and pepper.
  4. Whisk in about another 1/4 of the bottle of boysenberry concentrate VERY SLOWLY as the sauce simmers. Do not let the sauce get scorched.
  5. Allow the Instant Pot to depressurize naturally, which should take about 15 minutes, at the same time that you allow the sauce to gently simmer.
  6. Once the Instant Pot has depressurized, remove the ribs, coat them in the sauce, and place in your air fryer or under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes until the sauce gets caramelized. Serve and eat immediately.

7055df28-0c4b-40ae-9442-fa7a6a935264

 

*Note: I do not believe in using Liquid Smoke, and smoked salt is an excellent substitute for actual smoked meats, etc. If you must (gulp) use Liquid Smoke, go easy on it.

 

 

 

Win Every Night with the 8×8 Cookbook

I’ve been cooking my way through this new cookbook, and it’s fantastic!

Kathy Strahs has taken the concept of simple baked dishes to another level with the 8×8 Cookbook – not just boring timesavers, but real tips for elevating simple dishes into impressive works of art. There are a million cookbooks out there about using baking dishes, but this one has real-life experience.

8x8 cookbook

First, I tried out the caramelized banana pancake squares. These are really easy, and the “self-saucing” technique Kathy uses makes the fresh pancake squares really impressive and delicious. This is what I mean by a simple technique for elevating a simple dish — everyone loves a banana pancake, but caramelizing the bananas in some brown sugar and butter first adds another depth of flavor to the dish, and it’s just as easy as making a pancake.

caramalized bananas

These would be so much fun to make with kids as a fun weekend breakfast, and I will totally have to make the next time I have a brunch or go to a daytime potluck. Aren’t they cute?

caramalized banana pancake squares

Then I made the roasted cod with gremolata and lemony orzo. This is a really simple and classy dish you can make for your sweetheart or for your whole family. You only need a few simple ingredients, and again, a simple technique — in this case, adding lemon zest to the boiling water when you parboil the orzo — adds another level of flavor that makes it better than your average weeknight baked dish.

roasted cod with lemony orzo and gremolata

The Boursin baked mashed potatoes were next – not the most photogenic dish, but definitely one of the best – a simple cheesy mashed potato recipe, kicked up by creaming the potatoes, adding extra butter, and baking in a hot, hot oven.

I couldn’t get away with a cookbook review without trying at least one of the desserts! The chocolate craving cake (shown here without the accompanying frosting recipe) was really rich and chocolatey. I totally want to make this again and experiment with different frosting toppings — but the fancy technique in this recipe makes it so moist, you hardly need any!

chocolate craving cake

I first encountered Kathy’s work in “The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook,” and “The 8×8 Cookbook” is a perfect follow-up. I can’t wait to see what amazing tips she has in store for her next book.

Samples from “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen”

This summer, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and I am still undergoing treatment. Before I started treatment, I got as healthy as I could, so I think I am handling chemotherapy better than most. At the same time, aggressive cancer treatments have changed my body – and my taste buds – in ways I never anticipated.

For example, many chemotherapy and radiation patients lose their sense of taste for certain flavors … for me, it was salt. I soon realized that the food I was eating was totally salty, I just couldn’t taste it. I can’t very well just pour more and more salt onto my food just because I can’t taste it, but I can make things  that have tons of flavor packed into it, but minimal added salt.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz, which is a really amazing cookbook with fantastic tips for staying nourished while going through cancer treatment. I can see why it’s won so many awards.

Image courtesy of rebeccakatz.com

Image from rebeccakatz.com

All of the recipes are simple and healthy, but also offer a few extras for cancer patients, that others might not consider. For example, I have a friend who had to go through intense radiation treatments on her head and face, so her mouth, nose, eyes, sinuses, and throat were sore and raw. Eating anything that wasn’t pureed or freezing cold was too painful. This cookbook has great recipes for simple soups and broths, as well as smoothies and granitas, so that even if you can barely swallow, you can at least get some vitamins and nourishment.

So far, my favorite recipe from this book is the Bone Broth — which is extremely simple and very recommended for anyone, regardless of your health, to keep around — and Curried Hummus and Vegetable Pinwheels. These were a lot of fun to make.

curried hummus and vegetable pinwheels

The hummus recipe, like most hummus, is really simple, and shredding the veggies makes it easy on the cancer patient’s mouth and stomach, while still getting in the flavor, the nutrients, and some crunch. I used some really good, fresh, soft wheat tortillas, which made it perfect for me. I plan to experiment with this recipe again using other hummus flavors, and probably some other vegetable fillings as well. I think this would be great with some watercress, or maybe even some lightly-seared portabello mushrooms.

I noticed that in addition to making me unable to taste certain flavors, like salt, chemotherapy also made me really sensitive to spice — and of course, I didn’t notice this little glitch until I was deep into a bowl of Thai curry. It was painful! Since then, I’ve kept something soft and cool – pudding, ice cream, yogurt – on hand, just in case I accidentally eat something too spicy and need to put out the fire in my mouth.

Luckily, my friend who gifted me the book also made me the Cantaloupe Granita with Mint, which was amazing! I basically have a tub of this in my freezer, to shave off a bowl full of cool relief whenever I need it.

cantaulope granita with mint

I can’t wait until my treatment is over, if for no other reason than to be able to eat spicy food again.

So far, the recipes from this book and the helpful advice it offers has been a great help to me. Stay tuned for more posts with recipes from this book in the next few months.