I feel like I've been gone from these pages for eons! Okay, it's only been 10 days but feels like forever. I've missed you guys! In case you missed it earlier, last weekend I was hired by Tourism Saskatchewan to be the chef for a group of travel writers and Tourism Sask staff, while we explored the Grasslands National Park area of southern Saskatchewan. Two RVs were to be our home base for the four days while we were trippin the roads down south. I knew it was going to be an adventure, because seven women traversing the prairie is always an adventure, but I had no idea it would be as adventurous as it was. So let me get the dirty deets out of the way first. The rental RVs we were travelling in were completely dilapidated and pieces of crap from the good old days of 1986. I'm still in awe that we actually didn't break down on the side of the road somewhere. One of them, we found out the first morning, did not have a working refrigerator, so most of my dairy and some meat was ruined. Boo to that. But the biggest, baddest let down was having no running water the whole entire trip. I'm not a camping girl, nor do I have any experience with RVs but I just assumed they came jam packed with water. Not ours. So we had to haul it and boil it for food prep. I felt a little like Laura Ingalls Wilder, minus the petticoat and bonnet. Needless to say, this threw a huge wrench into food prep, making cooking for seven take much much longer than it normally does. But in the end, the food was made and was very warmly received and no one got sick (my biggest concern the whole trip) and I have an arsenal of stories I can whip out during a lull at dinner parties. We all need those, don't we?
So enough of the whiny bits - let me tell you about the good stuff, because there was lots of that too. The definite highlight for me was meeting and cooking for Cinda Chavich. If you aren't familiar with Cinda, she's a super talented food and travel writer, whose work appears in The Globe and Mail and countless magazines across Canada and abroad. She recently won two National Writing Awards and she's a blogger too! We would "blog talk" over breakfast, and while bumping along grid roads and over crickets chirping at sunset. Good stuff! Check out her site TasteReport for all kinds of lovely, informative posts about all things food and travel. Cinda has also written five cookbooks, two of which I own and delve into all the time: High Plains and The Girl Can't Cook. She's been a bit of a culinary inspiration for me for quite some time, and I really really wanted to make a good impression. Cinda and I hit it off right away - she's a down to earth prairie girl with an affinity for chocolate and potato chips just like me - and I'm still basking in the glow from her taking photos of my food and asking me for recipes. Very cool indeed. Plus we've seen each other without makeup, so doesn't that automatically make us friends? I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to cook for Cinda (and Suzanne Morphet and Lucy Izon - the other travel writers I knew little of before the trip, but I will most definitely keep tabs on now - their work is truly wonderful too). They were an easy going, appreciative bunch, and didn't give me any grief when I had to kick them out of their bunks at 7:00 am so I could get started on breakfast. Cheers ladies!
So let's talk about food! There aren't a lot of food photos from the trip. The weekend was pretty jam packed with activity and we ate late every night; plus my camera was never with me when I wanted it! I made a lot of recipes that already made an appearance on the blog. These Chewy Granola Bars were the perfect road trippin' power snack; this Strawberry Rhubarb Tiramisu was oohed and awed over; I made fish with Rhubarb Glaze, to great reviews . I used sour cherries (thanks cousin Leanne for part of your stash!) for this Cherry Stuffed Chicken. We ate Croissant French Toast the first morning and it was a huge hit, as were Breakfast Tacos with Avocado Salsa. I had to make this Caramel Popcorn too, and it was perfect post hike fuel. Oh yeah, we ate good out of those ramshackle RVs! But this pie, oh this pie was a stunner. I've been making it for years and years and it won all of the ladies over. Super quick to prepare and full of pecans and caramel fudge in an Oreo crust, it's dreamy stuff. I'll forever remember tucking into a slice under the beautiful prairie sky, with my new friends.
Pecan Caramel Fudge Pie
1 1/2 cups Oreo crumbs
6 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup salted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
6 tbsp Rogers Golden Syrup OR corn syrup
3 cups pecan halves
3 tbsp whipping cream
3 ounces good quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
To prepare the crust, combine the Oreo crumbs with melted butter and vanilla and press into a 9 inch pie plate. Freeze while you make the filling.
Melt the butter, brown sugar and syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and let it boil 1 minute without stirring. Stir in the pecans and whipping cream, and let it boil for 3 more minutes, stirring just once or twice. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 350*F oven. Let cool completely before cutting into it. Freezes very well. Serves 8. I've had this recipe, clipped out of either Gourmet or Bon Appetit for years and years.
But wait! There's more! While I didn't take many photos of food, I snapped quite a few of the stunning scenery. If you ever get a chance to visit Grasslands National Park, in Southern Saskatchewan, please do. Just make sure your RV has running water :)
Shooting prairie with the writers.
Tall grass and big prairie sky.
I love cows.
We drove into this abandoned town called Robsart and it had a super creepy vibe. Lots of falling down houses like this one made great inspiration for the photographers. But then out of nowhere a dog started barking at us so we boogied back into the van!
Big ol' bison, minding his own business, in Grasslands National Park. I shot this threw the van window as he was just at the side of the road!
The Saskatchewan prairie has amazing light, especially in the evening. The sun was setting behind us and there was a storm brewing and then out popped this pretty cool rainbow.
More amazing prairie light - it changes every minute. Imagine a symphony of crickets keeping me company while I took this.
The crew. The big sky can make you feel very little!
Little Renee On The Prairie
And lastly, the hunk o junk I called home for the weekend!