Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Freckled, tousled

I'm still here! It's been a while. I'm back. How are you?

My birthday, Memorial Day and Adam's birthday swallowed me up in the past three weeks, so forgive me, it's been busy. We turned the corner to age 29, and to what feels like summer, too. This time of year is inevitably hectic. Both of our birthdays zip through in the span of nine days, and then march us right into the season of weddings, cabin weekends, camping and general out-of-townness that takes up most of our free hours until the leaves start turning and football Sundays start up again. Welcome to summer, eh? Good thing we live all year for these freckled, tousled moments.

We spent Memorial Day weekend at St. Croix State Park on our first camping trip of the year. We pulled into the park on that Friday afternoon with no reservation, and we were lucky to snag a walk-in site set slightly apart from the overrun loops of the main campgrounds. Our campsite wasn't much, just a shabby little clearing, perched on a small round hilltop with a picnic table and our tent staked at an incline. But, it was quiet and under the stars at night, among a park full of hiking trails and a short walk to the river, which is all we needed.

On Saturday, we took a hike along the river. Now, this sounds lovely, but I can't tell you too much about it because I was too busy flicking wood ticks off my pants and shoes the entire time. Seriously. I knew the grassy trail didn't bode well, but I never expected this. Every 30 steps or so, we had to stop to flick off a tick or two or six. We kept pushing forward, thinking that the trail would have to get better, maybe we would get past the grass onto some pine needles or something for godssake. But it never did.

A good 50 ticks (between the two of us) (and no bites, thankfully) and a near-anxiety attack (for one of us) later, we drove back to our campsite, did a final inspection and cracked open some tall cans of Surly Cynic for a sunny happy hour. Only my favorite beer and the start of a late afternoon campfire could calm my nerves.

Oh, the adventure! Lest I deter you from the great outdoors: the Sunday of our camping weekend was marked with a glorious canoe trip. Or, rather, a glorious float down the river in a canoe while finishing off our beer stash, because the current was so strong that any paddling would have landed us at our destination too soon. So we were content to occasionally poke a paddle into the river to guide the canoe back to the center, and otherwise lay back and munch on Triscuits and laugh at the birds on shore, soak in a quick sunburn in the calm reflection of the river.

Anyway, I've got the great outdoors on my mind. And campfires, dirt under my nails, canoe trips and Starbucks Via coffee packets stirred into hot water in my metal camping mug. I'll tell you about the tinfoil pouches of vegetables and ground beef that we cooked over the fire pit in another post, and maybe the quick french toast that we charred on the grill. Welcome to summer, eh? It's here.

Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa and Goat Cheese
Adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

This is one of my favorite recipes to throw on the grill in the summer, but you can also bake them in the oven. If you plan ahead and make the quinoa a day or two in advance, these are even quicker to stuff together.

4 red peppers, tops trimmed off, seeds removed
1 cup dried quinoa
6 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/2 cup or so walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

Prepare the quinoa: rinse quinoa well; drain. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and return to boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Stir into the quinoa: the goat cheese, basil, walnuts and salt. Divide mixture evenly among the peppers, stuffing it in lightly to fit.

To grill: grill at medium to medium high heat for about 30 minutes, until the quinoa is heated through and the pepper is soft and starts to slump a bit. The bottom of the pepper will likely blacken; this is fine, but you can remove this before serving if you prefer.

To bake: bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the quinoa is heated through and the pepper has softened.