I Love Paprika!!!

Yes, the spice Paprika is quite wonderful, especially the sweet smoked version but what I am in love with right now is the recipe app Paprika 3. Being an avid home cook and past personal chef, I have collected recipes for years, created recipes and shared recipes with friends. My recipes were stored too many ways, paper copies, photos and several places online. Most of my favorites resided online in an email folder which had made them easy to access in the past but if the wireless connection was not good (or non-existent on the boat) there were issues retrieving recipes. Not to mention they were in no particular order so it was often frustrating to find recipes or remember what recipies I have. Additionally, this archaic system was really hogging a lot of my precious iCloud storage.

 

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Line Caught Ling Cod Tostadas with Hatch Green Chili and Avacado Salsa

 

I finally decided that it was time to find an app to migrate my recipes to, so after copious amounts of research I purchased Paprika 3. Within a few minutes I was off and running…downloading recipes via their browser and reloading recipes that I had saved in my email folder. I wish there had been an easier way to mass import my existing recipes but alas there was not. The good news is that it just took a few keystrokes for each one and voila my recipes were in Paprika. I would estimate it took me about 4 hours to get all 300 plus recipes migrated. Yes, a bit of an investment of time but think of it as a hiatus from the book you might be reading or from watching mindless TV!

 

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This is a screen shot example of one of my favorite soup recipes – Picante Chicken and Black Bean Soup.

 

The other function in Paprika that is awesome-sauce is the shopping list. Simply pull up the recipe and touch the shopping basket icon and the ingredients are brought into the shopping basket where you can check off the ones you already have on hand. Then hit add for the remaining items…TaDa…now you have a shopping list!! Need some paper towel or dishwashing soap too? Yes, you can easily add these to your shopping list which will organize your items. This well organized shopping list makes it easy to breeze through the store. LOVE this function. The list is easy to access from the app on my iPhone and I can delete or flag items as I shop.

 

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You can also create a menu plan for the week, then create your shopping list and off you go to the store. Creating a menu plan certainly can make your week easier from a cooking perspective and really cuts down on impulse shopping.

If you are really feeling tricky, create a pantry of all the things you already have on hand and then add the things from your shopping list. I haven’t used this function yet but definitely will on the boat as it is hard to remember what is in the bottom of the under counter pantry or stashed under the bed.

I really needed this app during the holidays when I was cooking multi-course dinners as Paprika allows you to pin recipes. Pinning recipes makes it a easier to juggle between several different recipies. Open up a recipe and tap the pin icon in the bottom left. Once you have a few recipes pinned, tap that same pin icon to bounce between them. Paprika will remember any ingredients you’ve crossed off and the directions you have highlighted so you don’t lose your place.

 

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Provençal Vegetable Gratin – an beautiful dish that guaranteed to wow everyone at the table.

 

Scaling recipes is another handy function that the app has and is really great when you are trying to feed a crowd but the recipe is scaled for 4 people.

 

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Crabs Cakes Benedict which I served my sweetie for Valentine’s Day.

 

Overall, the $4.99 investment for the Paprika App was well worth it. I have been using the app now for about 8 weeks and still love it. Just today I created a one week meal plan, a shopping list and went off to the store knowing exactly what I needed to purchase – SWEET!!!

 

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Coming over for dinner???

Instant Pot

 

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Photogenic Joshua Tree National Park

 

Some place are simply hard to capture through the lens of a camera but Joshua Tree National Park has got to be one of the most photogenic place we have been this winter. I am a very amateur photographer so you can bet I was thrilled when I started viewing the beautiful park iPhone pictures on a larger iPad screen later. Joshua Tree was good to me for sure.

 

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That’s a fine looking Joshua Tree!! They are actually part of the Yucca family.

 

Not only is the park a beautiful place to photograph, the hiking is great too. It has been over 20 years since we had visited Joshua Tree so we spent the day getting reacquainted.

 

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I love the texture that you get when taking photos in the desert. 

 

With two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, Joshua Tree National Park has a fascinating variety of plants and animals who make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. The risk taker side of me is really jonesing to be in the desert when a major torrential downpour happens. Not so crazy as to want to be hiking in a slot canyon but perhaps somewhere high enough to safely watch all hell break loose!

The park website has some great info on safely visiting the park (okay, no info on where the best place is to watch a flash flood) as the weather can be extreme and there is no cell service inside the park. “Remember, your safety is your responsibility”. Hmm, was that directed at me specifically???

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Great boulder climbing in the park.

 

Dark night skies and the surreal geologic features make Joshua Tree a popular place to camp. With 792,510 acres, four visitors and nine campgrounds there are days of exploration to be had. We did some recon for sites large enough for the Roadhouse but like most national parks, big rigs like ours have a harder time finding a site that will accommodate length beyond 35 feet.

 

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The campsites at Hidden Valley are nestled in-between the jumbo boulders. 

 

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Camping at Joshua Tree is primitive. No water, so bring plenty with you.

 

There are also many great picnic areas scattered all around this section of the park. We found a great lunch spot at one of the picnic areas near Jumbo Rocks.

 

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Skull Rock…I think it looks like a gorilla head!

 

We spent most of our day in the northwest section of the park doing short hikes and taking in all the natural beauty. We started the day by driving from Palm Springs to the Cottonwood Visitors Center. From there we worked our way up to Keys View stopping at the Cholla Gardens and a few other areas along the way.

 

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The Discovery Trail was designed by students and includes 10 features of interest for kids.

 

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The Cholla Cactus Garden

 

Barker Dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the 1.3 mike hike was my favorite of the day.  The area is just stunning and the water there made it feel like a real oasis in the desert.

 

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A true oasis in the desert…no camels but there were some ducks floating around.

 

The dam was originally constructed by the Barker and Shay cattle company in 1902 and was added to several times by William “Bill” Keys, a homesteader and local legend. The dam serves as a tangible reminder of the tenacity and ingenuity of homesteaders struggling to survive in the extreme deserts of the American Southwest. Rusted metal pipes scavenged from abandoned mines protrude from the top of the masonry and concrete dam that catches and holds seasonal precipitation. No springs exist in the area, so catchments such as Barker Dam were vitally important for ranchers and homesteaders trying to settle the desert.

Sadly, this historical dam has suffered serious vandalism and in 2015 the area around the dam was closed off to the public. REALLY, what the hell is wrong with people – when I read about things like this happening in such areas of beauty I really lose faith in humans. We are fast becoming a failed species.

 

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So unbelievable that people would do this. Photo courtesy of the NPS.

 

Thankfully, the NPS partnered with the University of New Mexico who helped the Joshua Tree National Park develop a method of mitigating the scratched graffiti at Barker Dam.  The year and a half partnership culminated with a weeklong project where architectural conservators from the University of New Mexico volunteered their skills to effectively cover the visual impacts of scratched graffiti from the entire surface of the dam. Okay, my faith in humans is slightly restored!

 

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The restored dam wall.

 

Bill Keys and the Desert Queen Ranch are quite a story. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the tour but it is on my list of things to do when we make another visit to the park. So, I promise a follow up to this at a later date!

Unlike the many rolling hills of sand found at other parts of Joshua Tree, Hidden Valley is composed mostly of large boulders and countless rock making it one of the most popular destinations in the park for rock climbers. That, and the fact that there is a campground just across the road with just nine super cool sites tucked back in the big boulders make this a popular place. So listen up avid campers, if you haven’t camped at Joshua Tree National Park, you should put it on your bucket list.

 

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This yucca has the perfect location tucked in next to the boulders. The roots will seek moisture from under the boulders which will help it survive – aren’t plants clever!

 

No climbing for us, instead we stuck to the trail and enjoyed the short walking/hiking trail around Hidden Valley. I can see why climbers love this area – the massive rocks ringing part of the valley are just spectacular. For non-climbers, Hidden Valley is one of the easiest trails in the park, despite the difficulty of rock climbing here. You can take in the rocks scaling to 4,200 feet at their highest point and the climbers climbing on them, all while hiking a loop trail that is just over a mile.

 

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Is that sliver of rock really holding the boulder up?

 

Hidden Valley has some interesting history too. Back in the 1870s a pair of brothers, Bill and Jim McHaney and their band of cowboys known as the McHaney Gang were known for stealing cattle and horses and hiding them between the rocks at Hidden Valley. They rebranded the cattle there, with 55-acres to do so. At the time, the herds had abundant amounts of grass to feed on, as it covered most of the valley’s floor.

After the herds were rebranded, they were sold off in other states. At one time a successful business, by the end of the 19th century, many cattlemen and miners had moved into the region and quickly it became too risky a business.

Our day in Joshua Tree came to an end all too soon and as dusk descended on the park, it was time to head back to Palm Springs. Good thing it is such an easy day trip from the Palm Springs area because we need several more days to explore the many parts of the park we didn’t get to.

 

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Our final gift from Mother Nature was this incredible sunset on the drive back to Palm Springs.

 

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Our driving route.

 

 

 

Texas Hill Country – Part 3

Texas and History, Texas and BBQ, those connections no one questions but Texas and Wine? Does that seem like an oxymoron? Well, it sure did to me. I had only tasted one Texas wine with mixed reviews so I wasn’t expecting much when we went wine tasting near Fredericksburg. Of course, I did a ton of research prior to and learned some interesting factoids about the Texas wine industry.

 

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A Texas high plains vineyard – photo courtesy of Drink Well America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Ya Know…that Texas is the fifth largest wine producing region in the US?

Did Ya Know… Texas currently has over 350 bonded commercial wineries?

Did Ya Know… Wine production in Texas continues to grow each year with over 1.5 million gallons produced in 2014?

Did Ya Know… There are eight American Viticultural Areas in Texas?

Good grief, I could go on and on as there are some truly interesting things to read about Texas wine history. But I won’t, so check out the link to Wikipedia should you want to dive in further. Just a word of advice, this history goes particularly well with a glass of wine so get out your wine opener!!!

When I wrote earlier about Texas BBQ and history, I told ya’ll this would all tie together – right?? Well, Napa and Sonoma may be more famous for wine, but Texas Hill Country has one key thing they don’t… amazing smoked meats – BBQ to be precise. Couple that with all the historical happenings in Texas and wine and you have a winning trifecta.

With only a week to explore Texas Hill Country, we chose to hit our winning trifecta in and around Fredericksburg. We could have literally spent a week in Fredericksburg just visiting wineries but with only a day to explore we picked out three wineries to visit and taste.

Our first stop was at Becker Vineyards near Stonewall. Becker Vineyards farms 46 acres of estate fruit and owns two additional vineyards near San Angelo and Mason, Texas, totaling just over 87 acres of vines. The tasting room was huge and packed…since it was a holiday week, I think everyone was at the Fredericksburg wineries.

Becker Vineyards’ winery is a 10,000 square foot reproduction of a late 19th century German stone barn, a style prevalent in the Texas Hill Country. Since first opening in 1996, two winery expansions have taken place to accommodate 74 tanks and over 2000 barrels. They also boast state of the art Italian designed bottling equipment, processing 55 bottles per minute.

 

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Becker Vineyards

 

The tasting offering were extensive and expensive at $20 per person for 6 tastings but you do get to keep the Riedel wine glass. Many of the wines we tasted were single varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also included blends of grapes grown at their three different vineyards. One of my favorites was the 2015 Roussanne Reserve, with its deep rich flavors of pear and mild tropical fruit. The grapes for this wine come from the Bingham Vineyard in the Texas High Plains.

Pedernales Cellars was our next stop where we were warmly greeted by the tasting room crew. Seems this winery has won its share of ribbons, metals and saddles at tasting competitions. Yes, saddles…nice saddles too! I would have happily plunked my bottom in one of those pretty suede seats and ambled around the winery on a tall, lanky texas horse. Alas, that was not offered as part of the tasting experience but we still enjoyed ourselves anyway.

 

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Giddy up!!!

 

 

Pedernales specializes in Spanish and Rhone style wines and sources its grapes from vineyards in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains – most importantly from the original estate vineyard started by the Kuhlken family in the 1990’s.

We are big fans of Rhone style wines and really enjoyed the 2015 Pedernales Texas GSM Melange. We bought a bottle to take to a blind wine tasting that we were attending back in Palm Springs. Rhone style and Texas are definitely not synonymous when I think of Texas wines so I knew it would be a fun entry.

 

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Our last stop of the day was at Hilmy Cellars which turned out to be our favorite winery of the day. The tasting room was small, intimate and the staff were incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the wines.

 

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The Hilmys purchased the winery property in 2006, and planted the first three-acre block of sangiovese clone vines in 2009, so this is a very young winery. The second planting of approximately two-and-a-half acres was put in the following year, and consisted of an experimental block of tempranillo, petit verdot and tannat. Ninety to ninety-five percent of the fruit for their current wines came from the Texas High Plains region, with the rest originating in the Hill Country.

Like most Texas Hill Country Winery’s, Hilmy is working with grapes that are best suited to the hot summer climate which in my humble opinion are also well suited to blending as that can often bring out the best characteristics of all the grapes.

Their white wines were my favorite and they have some more unusual varietals like albariño which is a white grape variety most prolific in Portugal & Spain. Albariño is known for it’s distinct bouquet, bright acidity, and its ability to thrive in high heat. As a result of those characteristics, it is gaining traction in Texas.

We tasted rose, white and red wines and left with a few bottles of the 2015 Persephone which is a blend of viognier and marsanne. The grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel, then married seven months prior to bottling, then aged in the bottle seven more months to further develop the bouquet. This full-bodied, well-structured yet supple wine exudes notes of fresh pineapple, melon and pear. A beautiful example of hot climate whites grown in Texas and definitely on the quality scale with similar wine from the Walla Walla wine region in Washington State.

 

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Hilmy Cellars

 

At the end of the day, I was sure glad I had left my skepticism for Texas Wines behind and ventured out to try some Texas wine. We all really enjoyed our day tasting in Texas Hill Country and wished we had a few more days to see what else was out there!

Texas Hill Country – Part 3

Texas and History, Texas and BBQ, those connections no one questions but Texas and Wine? Does that seem like an oxymoron? Well, it sure did to me. I had only tasted one Texas wine with mixed reviews so I wasn’t expecting much when we went wine tasting near Fredericksburg. Of course, I did a ton of research prior to and learned some interesting factoids about the Texas wine industry.

 

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A Texas high plains vineyard – photo courtesy of Drink Well America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Ya Know…that Texas is the fifth largest wine producing region in the US?

Did Ya Know… Texas currently has over 350 bonded commercial wineries?

Did Ya Know… Wine production in Texas continues to grow each year with over 1.5 million gallons produced in 2014?

Did Ya Know… There are eight American Viticultural Areas in Texas?

Good grief, I could go on and on as there are some truly interesting things to read about Texas wine history. But I won’t, so check out the link to Wikipedia should you want to dive in further. Just a word of advice, this history goes particularly well with a glass of wine so get out your wine opener!!!

When I wrote earlier about Texas BBQ and history, I told ya’ll this would all tie together – right?? Well, Napa and Sonoma may be more famous for wine, but Texas Hill Country has one key thing they don’t… amazing smoked meats – BBQ to be precise. Couple that with all the historical happenings in Texas and wine and you have a winning trifecta.

With only a week to explore Texas Hill Country, we chose to hit our winning trifecta in and around Fredericksburg. We could have literally spent a week in Fredericksburg just visiting wineries but with only a day to explore we picked out three wineries to visit and taste.

Our first stop was at Becker Vineyards near Stonewall. Becker Vineyards farms 46 acres of estate fruit and owns two additional vineyards near San Angelo and Mason, Texas, totaling just over 87 acres of vines. The tasting room was huge and packed…since it was a holiday week, I think everyone was at the Fredericksburg wineries.

Becker Vineyards’ winery is a 10,000 square foot reproduction of a late 19th century German stone barn, a style prevalent in the Texas Hill Country. Since first opening in 1996, two winery expansions have taken place to accommodate 74 tanks and over 2000 barrels. They also boast state of the art Italian designed bottling equipment, processing 55 bottles per minute.

 

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Becker Vineyards

 

The tasting offering were extensive and expensive at $20 per person for 6 tastings but you do get to keep the Riedel wine glass. Many of the wines we tasted were single varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also included blends of grapes grown at their three different vineyards. One of my favorites was the 2015 Roussanne Reserve, with its deep rich flavors of pear and mild tropical fruit. The grapes for this wine come from the Bingham Vineyard in the Texas High Plains.

Pedernales Cellars was our next stop where we were warmly greeted by the tasting room crew. Seems this winery has won its share of ribbons, metals and saddles at tasting competitions. Yes, saddles…nice saddles too! I would have happily plunked my bottom in one of those pretty suede seats and ambled around the winery on a tall, lanky texas horse. Alas, that was not offered as part of the tasting experience but we still enjoyed ourselves anyway.

 

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Giddy up!!!

 

 

Pedernales specializes in Spanish and Rhone style wines and sources its grapes from vineyards in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains – most importantly from the original estate vineyard started by the Kuhlken family in the 1990’s.

We are big fans of Rhone style wines and really enjoyed the 2015 Pedernales Texas GSM Melange. We bought a bottle to take to a blind wine tasting that we were attending back in Palm Springs. Rhone style and Texas are definitely not synonymous when I think of Texas wines so I knew it would be a fun entry.

 

445A5B7D-9216-49F0-9968-B174A97F1735

 

Our last stop of the day was at Hilmy Cellars which turned out to be our favorite winery of the day. The tasting room was small, intimate and the staff were incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the wines.

 

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The Hilmys purchased the winery property in 2006, and planted the first three-acre block of sangiovese clone vines in 2009, so this is a very young winery. The second planting of approximately two-and-a-half acres was put in the following year, and consisted of an experimental block of tempranillo, petit verdot and tannat. Ninety to ninety-five percent of the fruit for their current wines came from the Texas High Plains region, with the rest originating in the Hill Country.

Like most Texas Hill Country Winery’s, Hilmy is working with grapes that are best suited to the hot summer climate which in my humble opinion are also well suited to blending as that can often bring out the best characteristics of all the grapes.

Their white wines were my favorite and they have some more unusual varietals like albariño which is a white grape variety most prolific in Portugal & Spain. Albariño is known for it’s distinct bouquet, bright acidity, and its ability to thrive in high heat. As a result of those characteristics, it is gaining traction in Texas.

We tasted rose, white and red wines and left with a few bottles of the 2015 Persephone which is a blend of viognier and marsanne. The grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel, then married seven months prior to bottling, then aged in the bottle seven more months to further develop the bouquet. This full-bodied, well-structured yet supple wine exudes notes of fresh pineapple, melon and pear. A beautiful example of hot climate whites grown in Texas and definitely on the quality scale with similar wine from the Walla Walla wine region in Washington State.

 

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Hilmy Cellars

 

At the end of the day, I was sure glad I had left my skepticism for Texas Wines behind and ventured out to try some Texas wine. We all really enjoyed our day tasting in Texas Hill Country and wished we had a few more days to see what else was out there!