Travel Companions

I thought I would share with you some things that I often travel with in my carry-on luggage.  I prefer to travel with carry-on luggage only, for many reasons.

1)  Many airlines now charge for all checked bags.  
2)  Less chances of your bags getting lost or your bags missing the connections.   There are very few direct flights from where we live, that will take us to places that we like to go, which means two or more connections.
3)  Space limitations.  We usually rent cars when we are away and they are usually small with very small trunks.  In the past there were times when I felt that I had to practically strap myself to the hood in order to accommodate bags and bodies!
4) We try and rent accommodations that have laundry facilities.  Or, I bring a bar of laundry soap and wash by hand.  Perhaps a nuisance but less of a nuisance than having no clothes to wash due to lost bags.

Most of these things were borne out of necessity while we were travelling.  Dull knives, dark hallways and queasy tummies.  Traveling can be tough and these things make life easier for me.

A pill container from the pharmacy works great for storing herbs and spices..  Each section holds about one tablespoon of ingredients.  In this one (from the bottom) I have onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, Mrs Dash garlic blend and togarashi spices.  

Red wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar - one ounce each. Bottles purchased from the pharmacy.

Night light, knife sharpener and a flashlight

Notebook and pen (not susceptible to computer or phone crashes)
Nothing will ruin your trip like tummy troubles.  Ginger for nausea and fiber to keep things moving in the right direction.

I love my Sony Lens.  It takes amazing pictures.  This lens attaches to my phone, creates its own WiFi network to connect to your phone and saves the picture to your phone.  Best part is it doesn't have to be attached to your phone to work.
(Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10). 

This mini tripod has the standard mount size to fit most cameras. 
A bottle bag

This plug lets you convert one receptacle into two receptacles and two USB receptacles.  The receptacles also swivel for convenience.

Two-way radios and spare batteries.

Beer cozies.

Freezer bags, lunch-sized bags and rubber bands.

Electrical tape (I'm married to an electrician, it's mandatory).

A disposable lighter (yes, you can - check out TSA and CATSA websites)
Happy travels!

Reddish Mole (Mole Coloradito)

 Many years ago, I brought back a cookbook from our trip to Mexico.  I read through it on the plane and when I returned, I got really excited about cooking up some traditional dishes.  I even brought back a large bag of Mexican oregano (that turned some heads at customs...).  Skip ahead a few years (has it really been 13 years since our trip??) and I had yet to fully explore everything this cookbook had to offer - including an opportunity to practice my Spanish because all of the recipes were bilingual.

A few weekends ago, as the sky had the shade of autumn grey that I love, I decided to dust off this cookbook and make something in the slow cooker.  After foraging through my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I decided on this mole.  I didn't want to have to spend too long preparing everything - just wanted to get it in the pot and get back to more important things (Call of Duty).

We had a very good haul of peppers and produce this year.  My husband, (the Pepper Whisperer I've started calling him), worked his magic and we had so many peppers I didn't know what to do with them!  Bajan Hot Sauce, Trini Hot Sauce, smoked paprika powder, piri piri sauce, Caribbean chopped seasoning, smoked Anchos, chili flakes and so much more.  Near the end I froze them whole and will decide what to do with them later on.

I pretty much used the ingredients as listed in this recipe, but changed the method to use the slow cooker.  We have so much meat in our freezer (thanks to my husband's diligent eye for a deal - which he inherited from his mother) that I needed to start working through it all.  I knew there was a pork shoulder (or three) down there - good place to start!  (I think a pork tenderloin would render a drier product).

The recipe calls for 2 lbs, I think the pork shoulder was a bit more, but in the end it doesn't matter if it's a bit more or less - as long as the sauce covers the meat entirely.  I also used low-sodium chicken stock versus the chicken stock powder (it's what I had).  I didn't bother to brown the meat, I just put everything into the Crock pot and turned it on high and walked away.  The smells coming from the kitchen were entirely intoxicating and was the source of much distraction whilst trying to win my xBox campaign.  I digress...

I cut the meat off the bone and kept the bone. I cut it into 2" chunks and put it in the Crock Pot.  Next, the mole.

Re-hydrate the peppers in boiling water until soft. then chop along with onions, tomato and garlic

Re-hydrated peppers
Quick blitz in the blender.  I added enough stock to make a sauce the consistency of ketchup
Poured sauce over meat and reserved bone - then set it and forget it for 6 hours on high
I decided the only thing that would make this dish better, would be some corn tortillas.  I sent my husband out to get some.  You need to know that I live in a small town, so you know where I'm going with this when I say that after many phone calls of  'They don't have any corn tortillas, can you use flour?  No!' -  from many different locations, I decided to make them myself.  Next challenge was finding Masa Harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas).  Eventually he located some.  This flour, unlike corn meal, is treated with lime (essentially calcium) and produces a nice and somewhat pliable dough.  Do not try this with corn meal, trust me on that.

I normally have a tortilla press but there was an incident a while one was hurt, except the press (ahem).   Hand rolling does not get the same uniform texture I was hoping for, but the taste was still there - slightly charred and warm.  I think I need more practice is all.  Nothing can compare to the taste of a fresh and warm corn tortilla.

Just follow the directions on the package - be sure to use warm water, it absorbs better.

Golf-ball sized dough, rolled between two layers of wax paper.
Grilled in a hot, dry non-stick pan (no oil) This one wasn't round, but it was an early one, still tasty though!
They were kept warm in my handy tortilla warmer until the rest of the meal was ready.  To me, they are not good right away (if I had some more practice maybe), they develop a nice soft texture after sitting and steaming together for a while and don't break apart when folded for inserting into mouth.

After six hours, the meat was almost falling apart.  I did check it at 4 hours, then at 5 hours, but it didn't quite 'give' when prodded with a fork, so I left it alone to do its job.

Not the most appetizing shot, upon reflection, however, you get the idea of how tender the meat was
I partially shredded the meat and added some of the cooking sauce to it. Next I thought I would make some pico to go with the mole.

1/2 c of grape tomatoes, 1/4 c chopped onion, 1 tb cilantro, 1 tb lime, salt and pepper to taste

Time for the assembly.  Warm tortilla, mole, extra sauce, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, slivered red onion and a squeeze of lime to taste.

These were so yummy that I made them again the next week!  I couldn't throw out that precious sauce or see it relegated to the freezer, so I re-used it (thinned with a bit of water) and enjoyed them again with some fresh coleslaw and more pico.

Buen Provecho!

Flying Home with Flying Fish

Swordfish - trimmed and ready to be frozen
We always try to bring home fish when we come back from Barbados.  I thought I would share with you our process in getting fish home.

We like to visit the Bridgetown fish market because they tend to have more variety.  (However, I will say that the fishmongers in Oistins do a better job of cleaning and filleting the fish).  We checked out a few stalls to see what was on offer.  When you are there, ask if the fish is fresh - give it a once over. Are the eyes clear?  Does the fish look intact?  Are the gills bright pink?  If you can't see the whole fish, ask if it's been frozen.

This time we decided on the following:  shark, marlin, swordfish, flying fish, a whole kingfish and a whole Mahi-Mahi.

I asked for the whole fishes to be cleaned and filleted only.  I prefer to portion them myself before freezing.  I asked for two pounds each of the others and one package of flying fish.

We used to have access to a Food Saver, however, it died a slow death and had to be put down.  We discovered the Ziploc freezer bags which come with a pump to remove the air.  You can buy these at Massey grocery stores.  These bags work great and we have had frozen fish in them in the freezer for up to one year without any loss of seal.  I've not yet been able to find them here in Ontario.

Ziploc Vacuum bags with Pump.
I portion off the fish (for two servings at a time) and put them into the freezer bags, suck out the air (the instructions are on the bags), then it's ready for the freezer.  Don't forget to label each type of fish - trust me when I say that you will not remember which piece is which after three months in the freezer - they all start to look the same.  I also label some bags as 'trim' to be used in a stew later.

One boned side of Kingfish.

Kingfish portioned

It takes about two days to freeze the fish solid, so give yourself enough time.  The day of departure, we put the fish into a thermal bag, then nestle the bag amongst clothing (sometimes wrapped in a towel) for the journey home.

Before sealing

After sealing.  Air is removed by placing the pump on the 'circle' and pumping it out.
It takes about two days for the fish to freeze solid.  About thirty minutes before we're ready to leave, I pack the fish into a cooler bag we bring from home, then pack it in our suitcase.

Freshly sealed packaged ready for freezing.

Two days later frozen and packed in the cooler bag

Ready for the suitcase

Ready to be zipped up and put in the car. Layer some laundry on top for more insulation
On the plane, when filling out your Canada Customs declaration form, be sure to declare your fish.  You are allowed to bring fish back, but you have to declare it.  There is a section to declare meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese etc.  When it was our turn to speak to the Customs Officer, he asked what I had, I said frozen fish fillets and then we were on our way.  No secondary inspection required this time.

14 hours later (still frozen) and the fish has arrived safely to its new home - our freezer in the basement.

3:00 am and in our freezer at home
The shark, mahi-mahi, marlin, swordfish and kingfish were $7/lb BBD (~$3.50 USD).  The flying fish were a little steeper this time at $25 BBD per pack - usually $15 per pack.  This batch of fish cost us about $112 BBD for 16 pounds of fish plus $25 BBD per package of 10 flying fish fillets for a total of $137 BBD (~$ 70 US).  This would cost me considerably more at home and I find it difficult to find kingfish where I live.  So, for us, it is definitely worth the process.

Small fishing boat with fish cleaning facilities in the background - Martin's Bay, St. John

Oistins Fish Fry at Home

Grilled dolphin (mahi mahi), pigeon peas, rice and gravy, salad, Delish and rum punch
I can never get enough of the fish fries in Barbados.  From Oistins, Christchurch to Half Moon Fort in St. Lucy to Martin's Bay in St. John.  Love it.  Sadly, when we return from holidays in Barbados we always crave a repeat as soon as possible.

Last weekend seemed like the perfect afternoon for a repeat of our favourite evenings there.  I even surrendered a lazy afternoon on the couch to clean the gazebo for us to enjoy our dinner in.

You'll need some mahi mahi which is easily available (frozen) at a reasonable price (about $10).  I recently discovered these individually frozen ones at Loblaws and Independent's and they have become a staple in the freezer.

The weight of each piece is pretty equal, despite my poor picture.

For the grilled fish (serves 2)
2 pieces of mahi mahi (dolphin)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of Chopped Seasoning (see below)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Thaw the fish, pat it dry with a paper towel and coat with a teaspoon of oil (this helps the seasoning to penetrate and stick better to the fish).  Season with the salt and pepper and the chopped seasoning. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours (overnight would be best).

Prepare your BBQ grill (oil the grill before lighting - safety first!) and grill the fish for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden and you can see it flaking.  Serve with your choice of accompaniments and enjoy.  I even made a couple of rum punches to make it a true fish fry experience (recipe below).

Bajan Chopped Seasoning
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of chives
1 bunch of parsley
1 white onion
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme or 2 tb broad leaf thyme
3 springs of sweet marjoram
5 cloves of garlic
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper - seeds removed
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lime juice

Chop the ingredients by hand or in a food processor.  Do not puree!   You want to see the pieces of seasoning.  Add the salt, pepper and vinegar or lime juice and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  Use it on poultry, pork and seafood.  Stir it into your sauces and stews.  Add some Bajan to the dish.

Rice and peas (serves 4 generously)
1 c of parboiled white rice
1 can of pigeon peas
2 cups of chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a medium sized pot until it shimmer, add the rice, thyme, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and stir to coat.  Saute the dry mixture for a couple of minutes, then bring the heat to high and add the liquid and the bay leaves.  Bring to a rolling boil, put the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to minimum and cook for 20 minutes at a very low simmer.  Check at the 20 minute mark to ensure all the water has evaporated.  If not, close the lid and let it cook another couple of minutes.  When it's finished, turn off the heat, leave the lid on the pot and leave the pot to rest off of the burner to steam for a few minutes.

For rice and peas - 1 cup of rice to one can of pigeon peas

Broad Leaf Thyme - nurtured in my kitchen for 15 years

'Delish' on every dish!
Rum Punch - 1 serving
1 part sour - 1/2 ounce of lime juice
2 parts sweet - 1 ounce of simple syrup
3 parts strong - 1-1/2 ounces of Mount Gay Rum
4 parts weak - 2 ounces of water

Garnish with a bit of Grenadine syrup, a few dashes of Angostura Bitters and a few grindings of fresh nutmeg.