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Thursday, August 25, 2011

California to Georgia Sandwich Love

Riding through the vast desert of Texas can be inspiring to some; however, I’m not the biggest fan of the I10. I am counting my blessings that it’s not hotter than the seven gates of Hell this morning, and that the air conditioning is working well after the few modifications Chris did this week. As always, the gears in my coconut are blazing on a new idea for dinner. In the meantime, I thought I’d touch base on a favorite of all travelling folks, the sandwich. Now, I know we get tired of the same old thing, bologna, turkey and cheese, PB&J. There are so many awesome variations to this classic fare that I really thought some love needed to be given to the sandwich.

When stopping in a truck stop, there seems to be only a few options for sandwiches. Subway, of course, and the cellophane wrapped sadness in the cooler isle. Subway can be great if you have good customer service, someone that cares about how your sandwich is put together, and short lines. This is not always the case as some of us well know. It can also be an expensive habit when you’re trying to save cash to get ahead out here. We really won’t touch on the cellophane sadness, as you have to be desperate to spend money on those wrinkled, smashed, unappetizing processed items. Wal-Mart is an excellent option for those of us that tote 64+ foot vehicles, as most allow some kind of rig parking and are abundant across the US. Those that don’t allow some kind of parking for us have been few and far between, and have only gotten a sour taste in their mouths from those people who don’t respect the rules, leaving trash behind etc. There are several chain supermarkets across the country that are also very trucker/traveller friendly, including Ingles, Fry’s, Smith’s, Hy-Vee, Food Lion, Safeway, Food Depot, Food For Less, and Kroger to name a few. I have my favorites of course, Ingles being the top of my list, but any of these will do.

I have found that the normal, everyday ingredients that most of us grew up on have begun to bore me over the years. I have expanded my horizons, and Chris’s, exponentially over the course of the last few months. Items like baby greens, baby spinach, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes, avocados, hothouse cucumbers, Claussen Kosher dill pickle slices, and thinly sliced red and Vidalia onions are just a few of the interesting additions that have been incorporated as of late. The types of pre-sliced cheeses available have come a long way from American processed cheese food.  If you’re not able to hit the deli, this is an awesome convenience. The creamy, buttery goodness of Muenster, the nutty, smooth flavor of Gouda, the slight tang of baby Swiss, and the availability of herbed cream cheese spreads, add depth and layered flavor to any sandwich. Plain old white bread is not an option for our gypsygourmet, as I have been increasingly health conscious over the last six months, losing a total of thirty pounds in the process. There are many different kinds of amazing bread, but I’ll stick to a few of my favorites; marbled rye, Jewish rye, pumpernickel, oat nut, and twelve grain breads. Croissants are a luxury that I do indulge myself with occasionally, but they’re better saved for the blog on Hollandaise sauce…. Yum J Last, but certainly not least, is the meats. You don’t have to be stuck with cooked ham or pressed meat turkey, and for those bologna lovers out there, there’s an Italian version of it called Mortadella, that is simply put “amazing”. We have been stuck on peppered pastrami, Cajun spiced roast beef, and Cajun spiced turkey. While the cheaper brands offer “more”, the mid-grade to top shelf varieties are always more rewarding. Store brands can surprise you as well, for instance, the Prima Della brand at Wal-Mart is a consistently great product that I’m very partial to. Also, when trying out new items you can always ask your deli rep for a taste of anything they have to offer before buying it. This comes in handy when you don’t want to commit to a large amount of something you may not be fond of. The list goes on and on with these beautiful deli meats, sliced super thin but not shaved, for the maximum presentation. After all, don’t we eat with our eyes first? Who says the three extra minutes of care in our presentation is going to make or break our schedule anyway? I want piles of corned beef, mountains of black forest ham, valleys of spicy brown mustard, and baby greens so fresh the color slaps you in the face. The vine ripened tomatoes out of Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana are so red they hurt your eyes, smell overwhelmingly like the earth they came from, and dance across your taste buds.  So, for now, enjoy the pictures, take your time eating and savor the process. Remember we may have to eat to live, but we can also live to eat. Until next time eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.

Friday, August 12, 2011

California to Georgia Broiled Hamburgers ala gypsygourmet

3:25 pm EDT

I’m starving. Ravenously hungry for something that does NOT come out of a paper bag. I have driven a ten hour shift (give or take) and have been debating the benefits of sleep vs. food. Well, battle of the bulge or no, I’m going to make something hot, at least semi healthy and edible with the least amount of fuss possible. I’m experimenting with my new schwanky Black & Decker convection/toaster oven. I’m in the mood for a burger and don’t have the necessary time to stop our truck to make the electric skillet a great tool today. So, I pattied up the 93/7 ground chuck, seasoned liberally with granulated garlic, McCormack’s Hamburger Seasoning, and some granulated onion, and set to broiling burgers in my fancy toaster oven.

4:00 pm EDT

We are sumptuously satisfied; our taste buds appeased, our bellies full, and are terribly pleased with this experiment. I have always told myself not to sell out, but I’m now pimping the product!!! I LOVE MY BLACK & DECKER CONVECTION/TOASTER OVEN! To be on a moving semi-truck, rolling through New Mexico and Texas, bumpy roads and all, this method is the bomb. Fifteen minutes on the bottom rack @ the 450 degree broil setting, produced juicy, perfectly medium burgers. The aluminum foil lining the pan made clean up a breeze. Keep in mind folks, I have my refrigerator and toaster oven secured with heavy duty straps and the door of the toaster oven secured with a small bungee cord for safety purposes. I also do not ever leave this appliance unattended while cooking. That being said, I am terribly impressed with the simplicity of this method, the consistency of the food cooked, and the snappy clean up. This chef will be using this appliance a WHOLE lot more in the near future. Keep a look out for more ongoing experiments, and until then eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Denver to Atlanta

A day in the life of the gypsygourmet……

This day starts with your gypsygourmet oversleeping in a parking lot in Oak Grove, MO. The first thought running through my mind isn’t “Oh crap, this load’s gonna be late!”, as it's a simple relay to our terminal in Atlanta. No, the first thoughts running through my head revolve around what I’m making for dinner; sad but true. At 8:45 EDT thoughts of stir fry are dancing through my coconut. Log book updated, trash taken out, dog walked (all very quietly as to not disturb the love of my life still sleeping in the bunk), and coffee in hand, I set out on I 70 east bound for Atlanta. Our truck is well equipped to handle the challenge of stir fry, 2500 watt inverter, 4.4 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer combo, electric skillet, every necessary utensil at hand, so I now wonder how I can put an eclectic spin on this oft used idea to make it fresh and interesting.

As I mentally rifle through the contents of my pantry, wondering if I have any cornstarch on hand, I realize with a start that I have crawfish tail meat straight out of Louisiana! Hmmmm, this could be an epic twist on an old favorite J I have fresh garlic, ginger, scallions, and tri colored bell peppers. I also have some broccoli florets, and some baby portabella mushrooms. I have concluded that cornstarch exists in my cupboard along with chicken base and soy sauce.  So, here’s the recipe I’ve come up with. There are a few fast and easy shortcuts if you don’t want to go through the extra effort of making the sauce, and remember folks; this is all made in the cab of my semi-truck.   

Crawfish Tail Stir Fry

2 T Classic Olive oil + ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
(Say “No!” to EVOO!!If I want fruity, I’ll eat a salad J)

(1pkg)Boudreaux’s brand crawfish tail meat 12oz

½ each red, orange, and yellow bell pepper (julienned/cut into ¼ in strips)

½ pkg. baby portabella mushrooms (1/4 in slice)

12 each green onions (1/4 in bias cut/diagonal cut)

2 Cups broccoli florets (bite size)


(Feel free to use Kikkoman’s stir fry sauce in place of homemade; it can be a bit easier.)

½ tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 cups prepared chicken stock (I like the convenience of Better than Bouillon’s brand chicken base)

¼ cup Kikkoman’s soy sauce

1 T Fresh grated ginger

2 T Minced garlic (Spice World prepared is great)

¼ - ½ tsp. chili sauce (I like sriacha)

2-3 T. Cornstarch dissolved in as little water as possible


Heat electric skillet to medium high, when it’s good and hot add both your olive oil and sesame oil. Next add your broccoli florets, cooking them until they start to change to a brighter green 2-3 min. The bell pepper strips will follow, again cooking for an additional minute. Last are your baby portabellas. You don’t want to overcook your vegetables, unless you like them that way. Me, I’m not a player.  When these have combined and are cooked “al dente” or semi crispy, remove them immediately to a paper plate/bowl, gently wipe your skillet out with a paper towel and continue on to the sauce.

If you’re using the prepared sauce, add the crawfish meat and the green onions to the vegetables still in the skillet, and enough sauce to coat evenly. Warm crawfish meat through, keeping in mind it’s already cooked. It’s ready as soon as it’s warm, serve it over any flavor prepared rice that you like. I prefer the easy 90 sec microwave Uncle Ben’s Wild & Brown Rice blend. It’s tasty and a healthier alternative.

If you’re preparing the sauce, add the prepared chicken stock to the fresh clean skillet, add the sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and chili sauce. Bring to a boil, and add the cornstarch slurry. As it bubbles, add your vegetables, crawfish meat, and green onions. Heat through, as mentioned above, and serve over rice.

I think it’s a great dish, not too complicated, and an awesome healthier alternative to some of the crap truckers like us are subjected to every day. I just got really tired of paying for food that just wasn’t “IT”. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, and drive safe.