Dutch Oven Bread Pudding

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The last couple days I've had two opportunities to try a new recipe: Dutch Oven Bread Pudding (in case you missed the title of the post). I couldn't believe how good it tasted. Well, okay, when you look at the ingredients it's not at all surprising that it tastes that good.

I figured it would be good to post the recipe I used, in addition to some of the things I found to be very important when making it. That way I'll know where to find the recipe in a couple weeks when I make it again.

I'm a little embarrassed that out of two full pots of the stuff I didn't think to take a single picture. I'll add a picture to the post the next time I make it.

Up until this week I had never really thought of making desserts other than cobblers in a dutch oven. On Saturday, though, we had lunch at Famous Dave's and we've grown to love the bread pudding there. But we just didn't have any room for it at the time. So after a quick internet search I found a recipe that turned out just perfect.

Here it is (the original recipe can be found at dutchovenchef.com).

Ingredients:
  • 1 loaf day-old French bread
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the sauce:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
I started by cutting the bread into 1x1 inch strips and put it all in a size 12 dutch oven. Then, in a separate bowl, I mixed the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, then dumped the mixture over the bread. It's important to make sure all the bread gets dunked, so I took a fork and pressed all the floaters down into the milk and egg mixture. At this point I added the raisins, but I suppose you could do that any time (before you cook it).

Depending on the crowd you're cooking for, you may want to leave a raisin-free section. I'm not a fan of raisins in things (I'm really trying to like them, though) but the raisins in this really didn't bother me too much. Oh, the original recipe called for golden raisins, but we just used regular brown(?) raisins. Well, we used sweetened raisins, which may have made the difference. We also didn't use anywhere near 3/4 cup of raisins.

I found the cooking instructions were exactly right: 8 coals on the bottom, 16 on the top, for 45 minutes. It was also essential to rotate both the dutch oven and the lid 90 degrees every 10 minutes.

About 30 minutes into the cooking time, I made up the sauce by melting the butter in a sauce pan, then adding the sugar, egg, and vanilla (mixed together separately). Stir it constantly for about 10 minutes on medium high heat. It should firm up a bit as you stir.

When it's done, serve the pudding with a bit of the sauce on top. It tasted really good with some vanilla ice cream, too.

It tasted great, and wasn't much more work than a regular cobbler. Enjoy!

New Blog

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I've finally launched my new blog to contain all my hiking adventures. You can find it at: http://asmallstepfordan.blogspot.com/

From time to time I think up great ideas for blog titles and hurry and register them so nobody else can get them. Some have been more clever than others. I think this blog is one of my better ones: A Small Step for Dan, a Giant Leap for Mankind.

My other blog, http://realisticexpectorations.blogspot.com/ is pretty clever too, but not nearly as useful.

Anyway, check out the new blog if you're interested in that stuff. I'll reserve this blog for my strange, random thoughts. Hopefully I'll have more of those soon.

Wetshaving

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Awhile back I came across a great post on one of my favorite blogs, ArtOfManliness.com about wetshaving. I had never known there was an alternative to the 2- and 3- blade razors they sell for way too much. So I looked into it a bit, priced out some options, and eventually took the plunge.

It cost a bit to get set up with the equipment, but the razor and brush should last at least a lifetime. And the replacement blades cost between 10 and 25 cents apiece, rather than $2.50-$3.00.

I have to say, though, that the cost savings over time wasn't really the appeal to me. It always felt like something was missing from my shaves. It felt silly to squirt foam from a can and pull a wimpy piece of plastic with a couple little slivers of metal across my face. Is that really how men shave?
That's how men have been shaving for a generation or so, but what did men do before that? They made their own foam with a the fur of a dead animal and spread it on their faces, then used actual metal blades sandwiched in a heavy hunk of shiny metal to remove their whiskers. I wanted to be a part of that. It's similar to my reasoning for wanting to become proficient at using chopsticks: If the majority of the world's population can do it, then why can't I?

If you want to try wetshaving, you'll need a couple things. First, obviously, a safety razor (you could go with a straight razor, but I'd suggest working up to that). You could continue to use foam from a can, but I'd recommend getting a badger brush and some shaving soap. I was able to get everything from Amazon.com. It's a little difficult to find the equipment at local stores. Wal-Mart has some good replacement blades and most stores sell the soap, but there's a limited selection.
I've found that it works best to shave right after showering; you have to soak your whiskers to get them soft enough to cut comfortably. I put the razor and the brush in the sink half-full of the hottest water the house can produce before getting in the shower so that the brush can soak, too.

After showering, I drain the now-cold water and fill the sink again. Then I'll take the brush, shake it a little to remove some of the water, and mix up some foam with the soap.  The soap I bought comes in its own bowl, so you just mix it up in the bowl, but you could also get a separate shaving mug to mix the soap (or cream) in.
Wetshaving is not nearly as fast as shaving with a plastic razor and foam from a can. It may not even be a closer shave; it's hard to compare. You also have to be a lot more conscious of what you're doing. You actually have to hold the razor at the right angle (a plastic razor adjusts for you) and have to keep from pressing too hard (plastic razors won't allow you to press too hard). It forces you to be more in tune with the razor.

Swirl the foam onto your face in a circular motion, pushing it up under all the whiskers on your face. Hit each area from different directions to make sure you get it all covered.
Then let it sit on your face for a few minutes to penetrate the whiskers. This is a good time to put in hair gel or deodorant. 
I like to shave once with the grain of the whiskers, then once against the grain (reapplying the foam every time). Then I'll just do a spot check, rubbing my face with one hand, finding a spot that needs extra attention, lathering it up, then shaving it again. There are a couple trouble spots on my neck that I can never seem to hit right the first couple passes.
When you're finished, wash your face with cold water to close the pores, dry it off with a towel, and enjoy knowing that you're shaving the way millions of real men shaved before you.

Looking Down From Lofty Mountain Grandeur

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Who would have thought I'd be able to hike on November 30th?  I had hung up my backpack for the year and wasn't planning to do any more hiking till next spring, but the weather this week has been so great I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get out and hike again.
I don't think that I've been up Millcreek Canyon since I was a cub scout, so I was pretty excited to go check it out. Maybe it looks better when there are leaves on the trees, but I wasn't overly impressed. It was fine, and I tried to enjoy it, but it's just not my favorite canyon.
The trail to Grandeur Peak starts at the top of the Church Fork picnic area.  What I didn't realize is that the Church Fork picnic area closes for winter, so you have to park out on the main road, adding another steep 1/2 mile of hiking to the day. That was fine, though. At least there was no traffic on the road.
 Once I got on the actual trail I really started to enjoy the hike. The trail follows a stream for about a mile or so, and I was a little surprised at how much water was in it this time of year.  I guess the snow that fell a couple weeks ago is melting off and filling the stream. It was nice to have the sound of the water to hike next to.
There were a couple "bridges" over the stream as the trail continued to climb.
About 2/3 of a mile up the trail (or 1 1/3 miles for me, hiking from the road) the trail takes a hard left and starts switching back up to the ridge, leaving the stream behind for good.  It was at this point I realized there was quite a bit of snow on the ground.
The trail went up and up, switching back and forth along the mountain, until at about 2 miles from the start of the trail (or 2.5 for me) the trail hit the top of the ridge and I could see down into Parley's Canyon. 
It was interesting to look South and see all the snow on the mountains.  Looking from South to North it looks like the mountains are all pretty much snow-free, but looking North to South they're covered.
The above picture shows Mount Olympus to the far right, and the picture below continues showing the ridge between Millcreek and Big Cottonwood Canyons.  One of my goals for this winter is to learn all of the peaks and protuberances in the Central Wasatch Mountains so I can look smart and point out what peaks are in the pictures, but I can't do that yet.  I just barely figured out which canyon is which!
After another half mile of hiking I got my first glimpse down into the Salt Lake Valley. It wasn't a great glimpse, but pretty good.
From that point on, though, everything was covered in snow. I had hit a few small patches here and there, and there was a bit of ice on the trail, but it didn't look at all fun to continue on through the snow.  I probably could have made it to the peak--it looks like a lot of other people have since it snowed--but it's just not worth the risk. On the whole hike I only saw 7 other people and three dogs, and most of those were just milling around near the bottom of the trail, appearing unable to make it to the top. There was little chance that anyone would be climbing to the peak after me so if I fell or got injured nobody would even know.

I did have great cell phone reception up there, and I always hike with my HAM radio, just in case, but it simply wasn't worth the risk.  I've decided that I enjoy the hike a lot more than the destination, and risking my life for a slightly better view and some bragging rights just doesn't make sense to me.

The hike down was pretty uneventful. It's amazing how sometimes you don't notice how steep a trail is until you hike back down. It was a stinking steep trail.

In all, I hiked 6 miles--3 up and 3 down--and climbed 2100 vertical feet.  It wasn't my favorite hike of the year, but it wasn't too bad, either.

Spisters and Spuncles

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Ever since my siblings started getting married I've felt that the English language is lacking in proper terms for in-laws (which I think is a horrible term anyway). So I've spent years trying to come up with words that would more accurately describe the relationship between me and the people in my life.

It has always seemed strange to me that "Brother-in-law" can refer to my sister's husband, my wife's brother, or my wife's sister's husband. In my mind those are 3 completely different relationships that shouldn't be referred to the same way.  So from now on I will refer to my sisters' husbands as "Sibrother", meaning a brother-in-law related to me through my sibling. Likewise, the wives of my brothers will be "Sibsisters". Isn't that already much less confusing?

When I got married I had a whole new set of problems. At least in my mind, my wife's brother is related to me differently than my wife's sisters' husbands. Does is seem like that to anyone else? So from now on, I will refer to my wife's brother as my "Sprother", meaning "spouse's brother". Likewise, my wife's sisters will be my "Spisters".  My wife's sisters' husbands will now be referred to as "Sibsprothers" meaning "Spouse's sibling's spouses", and my wife's brother's wife will be my "Sibspister" . All clear?

Along the same lines, I've always seen a difference between the nieces and nephews that are the children of my siblings and those that are the children of my wife's siblings. It always seems strange and a little disrespectful to distinguish between "my" nieces and nephews and "hers". So from now on, "my" nieces and nephews will be known as nieces and nephews, and my wife's nieces and nephews will be my spanieces and spanephews. They can also refer to me as their spuncle, and "my" nieces and nephews can call my wife their "spaunt".

Doesn't it seem like we should have had these words forever? I look forward to accuracy and clarity in my familial relationships going forward. And if this makes sense for you and your family, pass it along so the world (at least the English speakers) can benefit from this simple yet long-overdue set of definitions.

2012 Hiking Summary

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It has been a great summer. Not only was I able to hike 15 times this year, I also got a new job and we moved from Tooele to Riverton. Titan is a year older and so much more fun now that he can move around and communicate. It was great to be able to take Annie and Titan on some of my hiking adventures this year, and I have to thank them both for letting me get out of the house and hike all over the place. I tried to plan the hikes at times when I wouldn't be missed, but I'm sure I still missed out on some time that I could have been with them.

I've compiled a list of all my hikes along with links to the blog post about each one. There are two hikes that Annie blogged for us, and one that was blogged by the HAM radio group I hiked with. I also added how many miles I hiked on each trip. If you're a very quick adder, you'll notice that I hiked a total of 98.34 miles this summer. That's an average of 6.56 miles per hike. Not too bad, really. There's a really good chance I'll sneak in another hike this year just to get over 100 miles. (If I was ten miles short I wouldn't bother, but 1 1/2 miles? Come on.)

My friend Tyler got me going this year, and I really appreciate his enthusiasm and knowledge. Hopefully next year we'll be able to hike together more often. We climbed Frary Peak together in March while we were still waiting for the snow to melt off the higher peaks.


After Frary, I wanted to hike somewhere flattish, but long, and somewhere that had already lost its snow. Dude Hill was everything I wanted, except it wasn't nearly as flat as I wanted.


In May I found myself in Davis county a couple times with time to kill, so I did a couple short hikes up the canyons up there, hiking the Baer Creek and Adams Canyon trails.



For Memorial Day we, and everyone else in the valley, hiked up Bell's Canyon. It was great to have Annie and Titan with me on such a beautiful hike.


In June Tyler and I got together again to hike up Ben Lomond. I freaked out a little at the snow near the peak and turned back, but still hiked nearly 15 miles without a single blister (or one blister; I don't remember).


In July I went hiking with a group of HAM radio operators  who go out hiking every Wednesday night. It was a very different experience than my usual solo-hiking. They were great guys, though, and I hope to be able to hike with them a bit next year.


As the snow melted off the higher peaks, I started into my high elevation hikes, starting with Desolation Peak.
 

Annie and Titan joined me again for an exploratory evening hike to Cecret Lake in Little Cottonwood Canyon. We'll definitely be heading back there.


Back to Big Cottonwood Canyon, I hiked to the top of Sunset Peak above lakes Mary, Martha, and Catherine...


..and followed it up with a hike to lakes Blanche, Florence, and Lillian.


In September I ventured up the Aspen Grove trail to Emerald Lake.


I thought that Emerald Lake would be my last opportunity to get out hiking with fall coming on and the days getting so short, but I was able to sneak in two after-work hikes in October, hiking back down in the dark.



To finish up the year, I took Annie and Titan to the top of Hidden Peak. Okay, so we didn't hike to the top; we took the tram during Snowbird's customer appreciation days (food donation = tram ticket). But we still hiked 4.5 miles down from the top, which still counts. In fact, I'm more sore from our Hidden Peak hike than I was from the 14+ mile Ben Lomond hike, or the 10+ mile Emerald Lake hike. The 30 extra pounds probably had something to do with that.
 
Hidden Peak - 4.5mi

All in all, it's been a great year: nearly 100 miles hiked in 15 trips, 3 of those with my whole family, and others with good friends. Not only did I get physically stronger and gain more knowledge of the outdoors, I learned a lot about myself and what I expect life to be.

Bonus Hike: Big Mountain

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So I thought my hiking days were over for the year with winter darkness coming on fast, but I was able to squeeze in one more hike last night. I wanted to climb Mount Van Cott directly behind the University of Utah hospital, but after driving around for a half hour I couldn't find a parking place that didn't require a permit. I was a little bummed, and more than a little frustrated. Fortunately I had a backup plan: Big Mountain.
Unfortunately, even though I had a plan I didn't have details of the plan. I like being prepared when I go out hiking. Most people would say I go out too prepared. I like to have a track in my GPS showing me exactly where the trail is, I like to have examined the trail on Google Earth to see if there are any surprises, and I like to know the specifics of the slope of the trail throughout the hike. It's just easier to convince yourself to keep going if you know what's coming up around the next hill.
For anyone who doesn't know where Big Mountain is (like I didn't), it's right near Big Mountain Pass. If you don't know where Big Mountain Pass is (like I didn't), it's about tennish miles up East Canyon (that canyon off to the left as you head up Parley's Canyon. One really nice thing about this hike is that it starts at about 7400', so there's only a net elevation gain of about 1100', most of which comes in the first half mile.
It's really steep for the first little bit. Much steeper than I like trails to be. But at the top of the climb it levels off and makes for some great hiking in a beautiful area. In the picture above you can see the road winding its way up East Canyon.
Also at the top of the climb there are a ton of trees. It would be nice to go through the area with the leaves still on the trees, but walking on the fallen leaves was fun, too. This picture was taken right near where I had my encounter with 3 cows (I hope they were cows) on the way back.
Because of my frustrating drive from one end of the U of U campus to the other, I started hiking about an hour later than I would have liked. I started hiking at 5:50pm. Knowing I only had about an hour before the sun set, I ran up the trail as fast as I could. In the picture below you can see the trail as it follows the ridge down the hill and back up around to the right.
As pretty as this area was in the fall, it would be just as nice in the spring. I'll be sure to come back.

About 2 miles in, the trail started going around the side of the peak, missing it entirely. Had I been prepared I would have known the trail didn't actually go to the peak. It stays about 300 vertical feet below the west side of the peak. As far as I could tell there wasn't actually a trail to get to the peak, so I just climbed up the steep, steep slope through the prickly bushes.
The whole last climb to the peak was littered with some sort of animal droppings. It looked like a whole herd of something had recently been in the area. Then, right near the top I looked to the right and saw at least 200 sheep!
They were all staring at me, wondering who this weirdo was climbing up their mountain right at sunset. I didn't think I was in much danger from them. I've never heard of a sheep stampede.
Right as the sun dropped below the horizon I reached the top of the peak, took a quick picture of the little stack of rocks at the top (I guess it's to show where the peak is, but it was pretty easy to determine where the peak was when I ran out of hill to climb), and headed back down. I would have liked to stay at the top for awhile, but it was getting cold already and I had a quarter mile to go to get back to the actual trail. I don't get nervous at all hiking in the dark when I'm on the trail, but it's a little scary to be that far off the trail (in an unfamiliar area) when the sun goes down.
I made it back to the trail, switched my sunglasses for my headlight, and ate an energy bar. The hike back was pretty uneventful, except for the encounter with the cows. I was just walking along, minding my own business, when about a hundred feet ahead of me I saw what appeared to be a couple other hikers with dim headlights on. As they got closer, I realized they weren't headlights; they were EYES. There were three big cows right on the trail, right at a point in the trail on a steep hillside where there are thick trees on both sides.

The funny thing about cows is they look pretty wimpy and ridiculous when they're just standing out in a field somewhere, but when they're standing 50 feet away on a mountain in complete darkness and all you can see is their giant eyes staring back at you they're a bit intimidating.  Especially when they start moving around and you feel the ground shake beneath them. The snorting's a bit intimidating, too.

I wasn't quite sure what to do. We just kept staring at each other. Finally I told them in my best "cow" to get off the trail. Actually, I just talked in English, but they seemed to understand that just fine. They moved about 20 feet below the trail in the trees and stared at me as I passed them. It was a little freaky, but probably not all that dangerous. I'm looking forward to seeing them again on my plate sometime.
In all, it was a beautiful hike. The trail is part of the Great Western Trail and continues on for miles past the peak. I'd like to continue on the trail someday and see what else is out there. I ended up hiking 4.63 miles and climbed nearly 1500' (the trail does a lot of up and down). I would recommend the trail to anyone.

Racing the Sunset: Mount Wire & Red Butte Peak

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Just when I thought I was done hiking for the year, Annie called me at work and let me know that I probably shouldn't come home tonight. No, not because we're fighting or anything like that, but because she had her sisters and their kids over to play cards all evening. So in an effort to keep myself sane I picked out a hike that I thought I could do before it got too dark and cold.  That left just a few options within easy driving distance of home: Red Pine Lake up Little Cottonwood Canyon, Dog Lake (either one) up Big Cottonwood Canyon, or Mount Wire up above the University of Utah.  I didn't really feel like driving up any big canyons, and instead decided to make the drive up to the University of Utah.
Apparently, though, there was an accident on the northbound freeway so I got stuck in some pretty heavy traffic.  I decided to get off at 9000 south, but as I started exiting I noticed that traffic was flowing just fine from there on.  But it was too late to get back on, so I made my way up to I-215 the long way. That probably cost me fifteen minutes.

I arrived at the trailhead pretty easily after that.  It wasn't so much a trailhead as a small trail off the side of the road in Research Park, but the coordinates were in my GPS so it was pretty easy to find.

This was a hike I planned to do earlier this year when the higher peaks were still covered in snow.  Mount Wire is only 7100' or so, so it's one of the first peaks available to climb in the spring.  In my rush to get out the door and beat the sunset I didn't have time to refresh my mind on the particulars of the trail. I always like to have a clear idea of the terrain, any trails branch off the main trail, and the average slope of each section of the trail.  That would have been great information to know...
The trail started out pretty flat and even.  It even crossed a tiny little creek just a few hundred meters in.  After a bit, it joined up with the Bonneville Shoreline trail.  What I would have known, had I taken the time to refresh myself on the trail, is that there are two trails that head up from the Bonneville Shoreline trail, only about 50' apart.  The moral of the story: Choose the Right (trail). I took the left.
The trail I took paralleled the right trail really close (on the GPS) for quite awhile, close enough that I thought it was possible the GPS was giving me wrong information (if you're in a deep canyon, which I was, it can put you a bit off where you actually are). Looking at the topography, it looked like the trails would meet up in a bit, and looking ahead, it looked like I could see where both trails pushed up on top of the ridge between the two trails.

At one point, I saw a trail that looked like it connected the two trails, and followed it for quite awhile, but it was steep downhill, and I knew if it didn't connect to the other I'd have to re-climb all that elevation.  I would find out later that I was within about 50 feet of the trail when I turned back. Another 10 minutes lost.

Finally, after more than a mile of hiking, my trail came to a sudden and abrupt end. It just ended right there, and the slopes all around me were steep. Very steep.  I saw a "trail" heading up to the right (the direction I needed to go) and saw two people coming down the real trail high up above at the top of the ridge (about 200' up).
So my choice was to either backtrack a mile, losing almost 1000' of elevation and preventing me from arriving at the peak before sunset, or climb up the near-vertical slope through scratchy bushes.  Had I not seen the 2 guys on the real trail, I probably would have just turned around, but knowing that the trail was there (and that the GPS was right after all) I climbed up the hill, scratching my bare legs to pieces and splitting open a finger.  But I made it to the real trail, and probably only lost ten minutes climbing through the bushes.
The trail (the real trail) was beautiful. Seriously. I was so amazed at how pretty it was. From the valley, it looks like a bare, ugly mountain, but when you actually get on the mountain it's covered in trees (which were all yellow and red).  If you're wondering which mountain is Mount Wire, it's the one with those two big white squares on its south slope, straight East of Salt Lake City.
There's also an old tower up on top of the mountain. If I remember correctly, this tower was part of the Airway Beacon System that guided airplanes at night for a few decades starting in the 1930's or so.

The last half mile was difficult.  It got really steep in a lot of places, and I almost turned back a dozen times. I kept taking pictures of the sunset thinking that that would be as high as I'd go. Then, after resting a minute, I'd decide to keep going a little further, and eventually made it to the top.
I didn't get to spend any time up on top.  As soon as I got there the sun dropped below the horizon and a mass of cold air blew in. It got dark really quick and the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. I put on my jacket and giant headlight, drank some water and headed back down the steep trail.

On the way down I decided to make the short detour to Red Butte Peak (about 100' from the trail).
It took me 1.5 hours to get to the top, and just an hour to get back down. It was completely dark when I got to the bottom, but a bit warmer at the bottom than it had been at the top.

Overall, I climbed 2200' in 2.25 miles, stood on top of two peaks, drank 1/2 liter of water, ate 1 Clif Bar, and drew blood in 4 places.  It was a success!