Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simple, Fun....and Simply Fun

Have I mentioned that I love to travel? I know. I sound like a broken record. It is, most certainly, my passion in life. I think I was born with said passion and growing up I was lucky enough to have parents who would indulge and foster that love I had for new places. But when I was a kid we didn't exactly jet set off to the Caribbean or Europe...we went on road trips...and we camped. As far back as I can remember my parents have had a motor-home. Also as far back as I can remember the rule of thumb was...if there wasn't an ocean between us and our destination...we were driving there. So I was lucky enough to see a lot of this great country that way (actually, just about all 50 states).

These days I still love camping. The hubby and I use a tent so it isn't quite as posh as it used to be, but it still has it's place in a travel junkie's life. Not every trip has to follow the "go big or go home" rule. Camping can give you a certain kind of joy that you can't find elsewhere. One of my happiest memories of all time was with my husband on our first camping trip together. We took a long weekend and went to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. We drove our old Jeep Wrangler up and down the sides of the mountains that surround that valley, then hiked our gear down to a secluded bank and set up camp. We didn't do much that day. I think we looked for firewood, fished a bit, swam a lot and stood on a rock, in the middle of the river, just admiring the view and enjoying our seclusion...for about 3 hours. That is where I go in my mind to find my happy place.

So the moral of this story is that you should try camping....with your significant other (being alone in the wilderness or snuggling up next to a roaring camp fire is just about as romantic as it gets)....with your kids (kids were made for camping...just set them loose to explore and hose them down when they come back)....with your dog (he or she will thank you for all of the new smell opportunities). Find a State or National Park near you (please avoid KOA's and such), pack up the cooler, dust off the tent and go on an adventure. It's cheap, it's exciting and it's a great way to "get away" for the weekend. Would you like a recommendation of some great parks to visit? Let me know where you live and I'll be happy to give you my recommendations. Last weekend the hubby and I joined my parents, brother, Mark and his girlfriend, Katie (no, actually, Fiance'!...they got engaged last weekend and I couldn't be happier for them...picture of them two years ago during 4th of July at Assateague...good job Mark) at Assateague National Seashore in's sort of a 4th of July tradition. Do you live on the East Cost? You HAVE to check this place out. Clean, unspoiled beaches (which are virtually empty), wildlife every where you turn...oh, and did I mention wild ponies? That's the selling point for me. They're wild, they're beautiful and they're everywhere. Sure you have to double up on the bug spray, and they only have pit toilets and cold water showers (more than we had when we were camping on the banks of the New River), but it's worth it to experience Assateague. Rent a canoe while you're there and paddle through the marshes. Try our hand at crabbing in the bay. Bring your surf rods and throw a line or two in the water and hope for a bite. Ride your bikes around the island in search of your favorite new pony. Or just lay on the beach (almost empty beach) and take a dip when you get too hot. There is no putt-putt. There are no ice cream shops. But there is a chance to experience a beautiful, natural environment and appreciate the little things again.

If you're going to Assateague (or anywhere this summer) try taking this dish along with you. I think it's perfect summer/camping/beach food. Pair it with a beer and you're all set!

This dish is ridiculously easy and SUCH a versatile item to take to a party/cookout. It can be served as a side dish to accompany something like grilled chicken. It can be used as a "salsa" of sorts and served with tortilla chips. It can even be a topping for tacos or quesadillas. It's vegetarian. It's just spicy enough, but the sour cream dressing gives it a refreshing and cool side. I love the hell out of this dish...and you will too.

Roasted corn and black bean salad:

4 cobs of corn
1 1/2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed if you like...I just drain mine thoroughly...I kind of like the "bean juice")
2 jalepeno peppers (finely chopped)
3 scallions chopped
4 tbs. chopped jarred pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1 small onion chopped
1/8 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tbs. dried cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tbs. fresh lime juice

Husk corn and grill until slightly charred (turning occasionally). Let cool then cut the kernels off the cob. In a large bowl combine the lime juice, onion powder, salt, chili powder, cumin, sour cream and mayo together and stir until smooth. Add the onion, cilantro pepperoncini, scallions, jalepenos, black beans and corn to the bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve as a side dish OR as a "salsa" for tortilla chips.

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