Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Friday, July 22, 2016

Overnight Decadent Blueberry French Toast








I'm back and I'm ready to get back to blogging, cooking and simply enjoying our friends, family and life.  We've been very busy, coming up with new ideas on how to improve our Sugaree.  We've had a few trips this summer and while enjoying our time with family and friends.  I found some recipes that are not only easy to make on the road (by halving the recipe and cooking in a square pan in a toaster oven), but the next couple of recipes are great for cooking for a crowd and are unbelievably easy to prepare.

We were vacationing on North Captiva Island recently, where we were on our own to provide most meals.  We had a party of 9 and unfortunately our pans weren't cooperating because everything was sticking, making frying bacon, hash browns and eggs a bit challenging.  So, I'd seen some really great French toast casserole recipes online and I got on trusty pinterest to see what kind of wondrous breakfasts I could conjure up for a crowd without  the hassle of half of our breakfast sticking to all of the pans.  Here's what I found and it proved to be a crowd pleaser.  You can double the sauce up and use the remaining, warmed sauce over ice cream.  Also, you can substitute the blueberries with strawberries or blackberries and you can use frozen or fresh.  You could even substitute a lovely fruit jam for the sauce.  It's fun to be back...Lots of memorable times will continue to be had with lots of deliciousness to surely occur.  Happy cooking my friends!  xoxo

12 slices thick, stale Italian or French bread
2 - 8 oz pkgs cream cheese or mascarpone cheese, cut into cubes
1 cup blueberries (maybe a little more)
12 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanill
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup

Blueberry Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup blueberries
1 TBSP butter

Spray a 9 x 13" baking dish with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Cut the bread into 1" pieces.  Place half into prepared baking dish.  Cut cheese into cubes or use a small cookie scoop and place on top of the bread.  Top with blueberries and then remaining bread cubes.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and syrup until well combined.  Pour over the bread cubes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  You might like to place a book on top of the wrap to sink the bread into the liquid to make a more gooey, dense cake.  I prefer not to place a book on top and I like to loosely place the plastic wrap over the casserole to make a lighter more airy dish. 

The next morning remove the pan from the fridge 1/2 hour prior to baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set and color is golden.

While the french toast is baking, prepare the sauce:
In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.  Add the water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir constantly and boil for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the blueberries and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the blueberries begin to pop.  Stir in the butter until melted.  

Pour warm sauce, and/or maple syrup over individual servings.  To make it extra decadent add a dash of whipping cream.

*Recipe adapted from recipegirl.com




Friday, July 17, 2015

The hound broke down and left us all stranded in...

Another post by David...

MALIBU...on the beach, no less!  After a great day yesterday at the Santa Monica Pier with Steve Lenier, we ended up at the Malibu Beach RV Park.  It was dark upon our arrival, and I ended up with the bus stuck in a one way high hill curvy situation and had to have some good samaritans assist with backing our 35' ass out of there.  It was rather stressful, with steep dropoffs on either side where we would tumble to our grisly deaths.  Fortunately, we slowly and meticulously backed out and found our spot, only to realize that the power steering was going out and I could hardly turn.  We limped into our RV space, however, overlooking Malibu Beach so how bad can it be?  Thanks to our Good Sam membership, a mobile mechanic was dispatched to our site and went and had the power steering line made and is putting it on right now.  If you're gonna be stranded, I can't think of a better place than Malibu Beach!  Again, we totally dodged a bullet and instead of breaking down in the middle of the 115 degree Arizona desert, we crap out in our RV space with an awesome view!  Pure luck, I tell you!

The mechanic finished his job around 4:00 in the afternoon, right as we were finishing grilling some bratwursts.  Then, we loaded up the bus to head back down to Venice Beach so the kids could see the scene there.  It was quite the scene, with characters everywhere.  After a couple of hours on Venice Beach, we had dinner at Mao's Kitchen, which was excellent.  We then headed back up to Santa Monica so we could see the Pier in her lighted glory.

Now, back in our RV space in Malibu, we are getting ready to crash for the night.  Tomorrow, we go back down to Venice Beach for a few hours of beach time, then have lunch with our sweet cousin, Whitney, who just got married and is expecting her first child, little Betty, in about three weeks.  After lunch with Whitney, we are headed to Hollywood and then to the Coffees for dinner with Bill and Mary Lynn and the Radjef family, who also happens to be in town!















Tuesday, July 14, 2015

You're either on the bus or you're off the bus...

Another post written by David~

We are definitely ON THE BUS!  After three days of travel, we have been to Carlsbad, NM, Las Cruces, NM and are now in Tucson, AZ.  It's a lot of fun seeing people's reaction to the bus.  On the highway, they wave and take photos with their phones.  A pickup full of workers giggles like a gaggle of schoolgirls as we pass them by and pretty much all kids smile and wave.  Burly truckers pass us by and flash a big smile and a peace sign.

When we woke up in Carlsbad, we packed it up and headed for Carlsbad Caverns.  This proved to be a most enjoyable side trip, as we got to walk through the caverns 750 feet underground and see the Big Room (which was aptly named), the Bottomless Pit (not so aptly named, as it is only 140 feet deep) and other very otherworldly formations that seem like you're in a Hobbit movie.  It also didn't hurt the experience that it is 50 degrees, which was a welcome respite from the bus, which although equipped with a great AC system, still heats up especially in the front with the large windshield.

After the Caverns, we trucked it to Las Cruces where we spent the night and continued our travels to Tucson.  In Tucson, we got to see my good friend Joel Tarantal and we got to meet each other's families.  It was nice to meet Joel's wife of 45 years, Linda and one of their lovely daughters, Coppelia.  We had some Mexican food in the late afternoon and a nice dinner with Joel and his family.  Joel and I met 10-15 years ago trading Grateful Dead tapes online  and through the mail, and have been friends ever since.

Tomorrow, we get up and head for one of the last big stretches...San Diego.  This should take us about 7 hours, although after this, we will be making short jaunts up the coast of California to the next cool town and spend the day and night there.  Looking forward to seeing Steve Lenier in Venice Beach.  Steve is a drummer and said we can park Sugaree along the beach in Venice, and he will organize a drum circle and a jam around it.  That sounds like a blast!






















Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Truckin'...



















...Hopefully in our Sugaree soon.  These mechanics have been promising that we'll have her back for weeks on end.  We caught on fire for the second time while bringing her home from their first repair job.  I'm doing my best to keep a positive vibe about everything.  NAMASTE!! 


Here it is Thursday, July 2nd, we were supposed to be on the road last Sunday, June 27th.  And we're still at home waiting to hear from these people as to when we can begin on our journey in our beloved bus. The Grateful Dead's first show is tomorrow night in Chicago, which is about 16 hours away from Dallas.  NAMASTE!!  

It was the last moment for us to make the show on Friday.  It was the time of this painfully, long drawn-out truth...We got word at about 5:45 that our Sugaree would not be road worthy.  David, the kids and I scrambled to get our already packed bags loaded into David's car and we were off to Chi-town, determined to make it for the first show.  

After we were well on our way and a little less stressed, we did a few rounds of Mad Libs, which I've now taught my family how to do quite well.  My Mom, Aunt Bette, my sisters and I are Mad Lib pros, although not always using the g-rated topics.  We've spent many, many a late night laughing until our cheeks and stomachs hurt.  Those are memories I will forever cherish.

Of course, with David in charge of our music selections, we listened to entire albums from Elton John, The Who, Bob Schneider, to name a few...and oh yeah...the Grateful Dead!

We drove until the wee hours, or I should say David did.  We finally landed in the lovely town of Blytheville weary and tired.  We noticed that a lot of town names in Arkansas end in ville.  Anyway, after exiting the highway we found the first motel 
we could find, which was the Deerfield Inn and we were all just too happy to rest our weary heads.  The first thing we noticed about Blytheville were these ginormous mosquito's...everywhere.  Open a car window for a second and at least five would get in.  We had to run from our car to our upstairs room.  And just with opening the door long enough to get our luggage in, we had unbelievable amounts of these huge pests in our room.  Most of us McQuaid's are the mosquitos' delicacy.  We had these huge beasts dive-bombing us left and right.  We had to cover every inch of our body with at least a sheet, and even then they would go for our exposed faces.  

We all were in one sadness of a room too.  Poor Dylan was left to sleep on this horribly uncomfortable trundle bed.  We could hear his every move as the springs squeaked loudly.  The next morning Dylan said, "That was the metal, deathbed from hell!  It was like sleeping on a chain link fence!"  Dylan definitely has his Dad's sense of humor, even when he's not a happy camper.

We all rallied and were up at the stroke of 630a, determined to get to Chicago ASAP.  But thankfully the little sleep we had helped David tremendously.  A side note is, I don't like to drive with David in the car because he's the world's worst backseat driver and that stresses me out.  Cassidy tried to help with the driving and she agrees.  Sorry my love, but it's true.

We're all are quickly tiring of our fast food meals during the last couple of days.  We actually rejoiced when we happened to stumble upon a Jimmy John's.  We never thought we would be so happy to see JJ.  I look forward to making our own home cooked meals in our bus.  


On the road again, feeling great about the time we've made.  Thinking we might possibly get into Chicago by 1p.  That was not to be.  We rolled in at about 3ish and oh boy, the traffic was horrendous.  It took us at least 45 minutes to get from Soldier Field to our hotel, which was not but 5 miles away.  


We finally got to "Shakedown Street," which is this unbelievably fun, festival-like, parking lot scene.  You have people selling tie-dye t-shirts, all kinds of amazing jewelry and of course, intense grilled cheese sandwiches.  There's so much love and camaraderie, you can't help but be drawn in by it all.  


It was showtime and we only had 4 tickets and of course, there are 5 of us.  David has forever wanted to take our "kids" to a Grateful Dead show.  Now, with this being their last 3 shows, this was the time.  David insisted I take the 4th ticket and he would just hang out.  I DON'T THINK SO!  I was tired and very happy to go chill at the hotel.  Plus, there were going to be 80,000 people and you should have seen the lines for the restrooms, and to get into Soldier Field.  It was true craziness, but peaceful craziness.  As soon as I got back to the hotel I had my pj's on and room service ordered.  I was a very happy camper as were my peeps at the show.  This truly was a moment David has been looking forward to from the day they were born, he's now had the opportunity to share the "Dead" experience with Avery, Cassidy and Dylan.


4th of July is here and tickets are very hard to come by.  But, we got to spend a fantastic day with our wonderful friends, Julie and Rus from California.  They are our friends who are responsible for Dylan getting to spend a week at Wavy Gravy's Camp Winnarainbow  in Northern California.  Then, we got to briefly see our Dallas friends.  As David said so well about our day:
"Today, we met our tribe at the Stanley Mouse Pop-Up, where Eric Schwartz was DJ-ing and they had lots of Stanley Mouse art. So fun to hang with all of our friends. The Boys didn't disappoint tonight...with a beautiful Standing on the Moon, One More Saturday Night and a US Blues encore. During the Stella Blue, I was standing in a puddle of my own tears it was so sweet!"

David helped hail me a cab and sent me on my my way and again I was very happy at the hotel in my "cozies."  

Sunday, was yet another spectacular day because we got to see and hang with some of our most special friends from Dallas while overlooking the enchanting Lake Michigan.  The weather all weekend long could not have been more perfect.  We were sitting in the shade in some soft, green grass with the wind softly blowing.  Watching the boats come and go is mesmerizing, especially because they are like our Sugaree, a nice, mobile, vacation home


Sunday was a repeat of the two nights prior, bustling with many a colorfully, tie-dye cladded hippies.  The "Shakedown" scene is what I love, but even that was overly crowded for my liking.  You used to be able to browse around and look at everyone's wares and enjoy all kinds of homemade yummy foods, meet so many super cool folks and of course, great people watching.  This time it was like herding cattle, we were all very jammed, packed just trying to make it through with the teaming millions.  It was definitely claustro-city.  

Monday, we slept in and we all so needed it, especially before venturing homeward bound,where  hopefully we'll be able to scoop up our Sugaree.   We contemplated on taking a little less direct route and go to Memphis or just get get home.  We decided on Memphis and we're all so glad we did.  We got to Memphis around 9:00. We got to hang out on Beale Street, hear some good music, and eat at Silky O'Sullivan's. Midnight rang in Dylan's 16th birthday, so a fun way to bring in 16!  Happy Birthday Dylan!  I love you to the moon and back a gazillion times. 



For a not too crazy-expensive hotel, we had a pleasant stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites just off of Beale St. in Memphis.  Great location, very clean, great service, comfortable beds and a nice breakfast buffet with make-it yourself waffles.  A band raged outside our balcony on Beale Street from the moment we arrived until the stroke of midnight, at which point, they packed it up...which suited us just perfectly.

Tuesday, we were on the road not too early but, we had another good 8 hours ahead of us before we would be home.  David, in usual fashion, was making us laugh almost the whole way.  Well, in between us having to break up the constant argument between the kids as to who was going to sit on the hump in the back of D's car.  We finally got home.  All of us sore and tired, but hoping that Sugaree will be ready.  David makes the call, we waited as painstakingly as long as we could.  He talks to the cheerful man who answers the phone and he was told it should be ready in an hour, so we should head that way in about 30 minutes or so.  We all cheered and started figuring out our course of action.  20 minutes later we get a call from Mr. cheerful to have him say, "She's not quite ready yet...blah, blah blah."  Here it is July 8th, it's so hard not to be frustrated.   Oh well, it is what it is.  NAMASTE!!!

Bottom line is we had one of the best family vacations ever, even with the obstacles.   We're so fortunate that we all truly love hanging out with each other, hopefully that will still be the case at the end of our trip.  Either way, the best is yet to come!  :-)