Starling Travel

June 25, 2012

Moncur Epic Journey May 2012: Osceola Cheese Company in Osceola, Missouri

Filed under: Food,Missouri,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Amish Yield SignMike and I saw the sign at the same time. I said,

“Share the road? With what? The Amish?”

We laughed and Mike pulled out his iPad to do some research.

“Umm… yeah.”

“Yeah, what?”

“We need to share the road with the Amish.”

I suddenly felt like I was in a strange land. There was a possibility that I could actually see Amish people driving horse-drawn buggies, just like the movies. And I did! I finally understood how all those tourists who come to Utah to see the Mormons felt. They’re just people. They might wear funny clothes (or underwear), but in the end, they’re people just like us.

I had no idea that with the Amish comes really good cheese. We kept seeing billboards for the Osceola Cheese Company. The giant mouse on the billboards enticed Mike, so we stopped there. I’m so glad we did. (Continue Reading…)

June 21, 2012

Moncur Epic Journey May 2012: Marlowe’s Ribs in Memphis, Tennessee

Filed under: Food,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Marlowes Ribs MemphisOur visit to Graceland was highlighted by lunch at Marlowe’s Ribs. We couldn’t visit Memphis without trying some BBQ. I wish we could have stayed longer in the city so we could have tried more BBQ places, but we only had one day there, so we visited the place with the huge pink pig trailer. (Continue Reading…)

June 11, 2012

Keer Pot: DIY Food Cooler Without Ice

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Here is a great tutorial showing you how to make a keer pot, which is a food cooler that uses clay pots and water evaporation to keep food cool.

It seemed to work pretty well for him. With an ambient temperature of 82 degrees, he was able to bring the temperature in the keer pot down to 51 degrees. There are two disadvantages to this type of setup: weight and humidity.

Clay pots, water and sand are very heavy. If you make your keer pot and leave it in your backyard to use during BBQs and other fun events, then it’s not a big deal, but trying to take that monster with you camping is not practical. I realized I had all the parts of a plastic keer pot at home, so I created one.

Plastic Keer Pot

Not only are there logistic problems with plastic pots (the sand crushes the sides in and the water makes the inner pot float), the water doesn’t evaporate quickly enough to create any noticeable cooling effect. Additionally, the laundry detergent bucket weighed so much after I added the sand and water that I could barely lift it. A keer pot is definitely not a portable option.

Since this method of food cooling depends on evaporation, this pot won’t work as well in humid areas. Where I usually camp, Utah and Nevada, this thing will work like a dream, but in any area with higher humidity than a desert, the water in the pot just won’t evaporate. This video was filmed in Florida, however, which tends to be WAY more humid than Utah, so maybe we’ll get even better results in the desert.

I love this idea. It made me want to run to the home improvement store to get the supplies to make one of these for my backyard. I had this image of myself showing it off to my family and amazing them with its ingenuity, and isn’t that the best part of a do-it-yourself project?

Via: Lifehacker – Keep Your Drinks and Food Cool in the Sun with a No-Electricity-Required Zeer Pot Fridge

June 4, 2012

Moncur Epic Journey May 2012: Holiday Inn Express Pancakes

Filed under: Food,Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 6:32 am

Our first night on our Epic Journey, we stayed at Holiday Inn Express. Mike needed to work that night and Holiday Inn always has good wi-fi. The next morning, we left early and ate their complimentary breakfast. We had a fun surprise with the Pancakes In A Minute machine in their breakfast room.

This was our only stay in a hotel on the entire epic journey. In retrospect, we should have left one day later and just stayed at a campsite. Mike would have been more rested and the drive wasn’t nearly as difficult as we worried it would be.

But then we wouldn’t have been able to try the Pancakes In A Minute.

More info:

January 30, 2012

A Better Cooler Experience

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

One of my least favorite things about ice chests (or coolers) is the ICE. I hate how it melts and leaves everything in the cooler wet. Anything in a Ziploc bag might end up soggy and ruined if the zip top fails to keep out the water.

Oh, and it’s COLD when I have to stick in my hand and root around for a soda.

Snapware 29 Cup 10X8X6 at Amazon.comThis last camping trip, we found a way to keep our food cold without the melted ice soaking our food. The idea started with the old-time icebox. Back then, they kept food cold by putting a large block of ice in the top area of the icebox. What if I could do the same with my ice chest?

Firstly, we needed a large plastic container. We used the Snapware 29 cup bin because it fit nicely into our smaller Igloo cooler and it had a handle at the top. You might have to choose a different size based on your cooler.

Snapware Ice Block in FreezerWe filled the Snapware box almost full of water and made room for it in our freezer. You want to leave at least a half inch room because ice expands and takes more room than water. Additionally, we left the lid a little open so it wouldn’t crack the plastic. It took well over two days for it to fully freeze, so you really need to plan ahead for your trip.

Once it was fully frozen, it looked like this. As you can see, I could have added at least an inch and a half more water when I froze it. If I had, the block might have lasted us longer.

Snapware Ice Block Frozen

At this point, fill that last inch or so with water and put the box in the cooler. It will take up a lot of room, but remember, so does having a cooler full of ice. You want to position the block in the middle of the cooler and place the most perishable items nearest the block.

Snapware Ice Block in cooler

That block of ice lasted us a full five days driving to and camping in Quartzite, AZ a couple of weeks ago. The food wasn’t quite as cold as it would have been if it had been a cooler full of water and ice, but it lasted a LONG time. When the block is melting, don’t drain off the water. Water conducts the cold much better than air, so it will cool the items in your chest better if you keep the water. Once the block had fully melted, we had moved onto our hotel in Vegas, where we filled the Snapware with ice and water.

Snapware with ice and water in cooler

You want to fill it as full as you can with ice and add cold water. This will melt some of the ice, so add some more before putting your lid back on. Once again, you want the water as well as the ice because the water conducts the cold better than air. You can drain the water to add more ice, but make sure the entire box is filled with ice AND water. If you want to have ICE cold soda, you can put one or two cans in the Snapware container with the ice and water and it will be just as cold as a typical ice chest setup.

Snapware with ice and water and soda in cooler

Make sure you always reattach the lid so that the ice and water don’t splash out of the Snapware box while you’re driving or moving the chest.

What I’d really like to do with this concept is find a container that fits on the lip within the top of the cooler. It would need to be shallow and wide enough to cover the entire top. The old iceboxes had the block of ice at the top of the cooler, because cool air naturally travels downward. Having the ice along the entire top of the cooler would be better than in the middle, but I couldn’t find anything that fit so precisely.

I’m also considering adding a drain spout to this container so that we can have ice cold water to drink. It was kind of hard draining this box without just dumping the whole thing out.

Dear Ice Chest Manufacturers: Please make me a cooler where I can EASILY put the ice and water in the LID of the cooler and my food can stay protected from the water. Put a spout on one side of the lid, so I can drain ice cold water to drink that hasn’t been contaminated by my leaky ziploc bag of bacon. Make me three different sizes of coolers with this feature and I will buy them ALL! KTHNXBAI!

Next time you have a camping trip or vacation planned, take the time to freeze yourself a solid block of ice in a plastic container and you will have a cold cooler without the soggy mess.

Happy Traveling!

January 25, 2012

A Week With Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and BaconCamping food runs in two very different veins. One is better than food you can eat at home and includes things like meat cooked over the campfire, s’mores and dutch oven cobblers. The other is food that doesn’t taste as good as food at home, but it’s light or easy to make. The Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon definitely fall into the second category and after a week of eating them on our trip to Quartzsite, Arizona, I am glad to get back to freshly cracked eggs on my stove at home.

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon #10 Can at Amazon.comUtah is a Mecca for freeze-dried food, so all I had to do was drive to the nearest survivalist store to find a large can of the eggs. I had tried a small package of them to verify that they were palatable and I was ready to get SIXTEEN servings in a big package for our upcoming trip.

Their estimate of sixteen servings, is a little optimistic. Each serving is 2/3 of a cup, but that serving is a tad small for a breakfast. Unless you’re supplementing it with something else, a healthy adult isn’t going to feel ready to start their day on that serving. I ended up using one cup servings and that worked much better for me.

I can’t complain about the ease of use. All I had to do was boil water, add it to the serving of eggs, stir and wait ten minutes. It was FAR easier to store the eggs, even though I had enough servings for the two of us to last all week. to do the same with fresh eggs, it would have taken half our cooler.

No matter how long I left the eggs in the hot water, however, they never reached the proper texture for eggs. They were large and fluffy, but they didn’t chew quite right. They always felt a little crunchy, even if I left them in the water for fifteen minutes. There was always a little bacon flavored water left over in the bottom of the bowl. That’s because I usually added more water than they recommended in the desperate hope that the eggs would miraculously have the texture of fresh eggs. The water at the bottom gave me the impression that I was eating egg soup, which strangely was okay with me and I gladly lapped up the tasty water out of my bowl at the end of my meal.

The smell of the eggs was good. It had a liquid smoke scent that I supposed came from the bacon bits. I came to enjoy the scent of it each morning, but Mike said it was disgusting. Of course, he refused to even try them, so I couldn’t really take his opinion into account.

Scrambled Eggs with Bacon is really a misnomer. I would have named it Scrambled Eggs with Bacon Bits. Strangely, most of the bacon bits sunk to the bottom of the can, so the later servings had more bacon than my first few breakfasts. No matter how much bacon, I had in my bowl, however, I wouldn’t really consider it enough to warrant inclusion in the name of the food. Maybe a better name would have been Bacon-Flavored Eggs.

Would I eat them again? Yes, most definitely. They made my camping breakfasts easy and trouble free. Instead of worrying about cleaning pans, all I had to do was boil some water. In fact, since we had electricity at our campsite, all I needed to do was turn on my little electric kettle. The fact that they are so portable and easy make them the best thing for a camping breakfast.

Would I eat them at home? Probably not. As easy as they are, they just don’t taste good enough to eat at home when I have a fridge full of fresh eggs to choose from. If we were in an emergency situation (such as the local populous worry about constantly), then I would be grateful that they were available, but as long as I have easy access to fresh eggs, an electric stove and a dishwasher, there is absolutely no reason to dip into that can.

January 16, 2012

Camp Cooking: Bacon Curry

Filed under: Camping,Food — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I usually don’t like watching cooking demonstrations. My idea of camp cooking is opening a can of beans or cooking meat over the fire. Matthew Cashmore is absolutely adorable, so watching him for twelve minutes cooking at a camp kitchen was so entertaining.

Here are the ingredients for the Bacon Curry. All of them are approximate based on what I saw in the video:

  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 large onions cut up roughly
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped or crushed
  • 2 stalks of celery sliced
  • 3 large tomatoes chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 6 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder (more recommended)
  • 2 vegetable broth cubes
  • 1 small zucchini chopped
  • 1/2 pound bacon sliced

If I were going to do this while camping, I would chop up the items BEFORE leaving and put the ingredients in a ziploc bag in the cooler before leaving. I’d have the onions and garlic in one bag, and the tomatoes, celery and zucchini in another. I might even replace the tomatoes with a can of tomatoes.

The thought of putting bacon into a curry is unique and it appears that Matthew is really just experimenting. After watching this video I wanted to run to the store to buy a bag of fresh produce and a packet of bacon to try to make this curry. For us Americans, courgettes are zucchini. Not quite as exotic as he made them sound, but YUM!

If you don’t really want to watch this video, just fast forward to the 9:12 minute mark to see how gracefully he handles Pink Helen’s interruption. It just made me smile to see him look at the camera!

Matthew Cashmore Bacon CurryIf you want to see him taste his creation for the first time, fast forward to the 11:30 minute mark. He deems it not spicy enough because the salt in the bacon toned down the kick of the chili powder, but despite that he likes it. “That’s really good!”

Mike and I made this recipe with beef and it was absolutely delicious. If we ever find ourselves in a pinch and need to use bacon, I’m sure it will be just as good as long as I remember to add more chili powder.

Next time you’re planning your camping menu, skip the cans of chili and try cooking up this bacon curry. It sounds delightful!

April 30, 2009

San Diego, CA: Lucha Libre Taco Shop

Filed under: California,Food,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 11:01 am

One taco joint is pretty much the same as any other. There are so many that it’s impossible to eat at them all. If you are in the San Diego area, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have at least one meal at Lucha Libre Taco Shop.

Lucha Libre Taco Shop by LauraMoncur from Flickr

The highlight of the shop is the prestige of the Table of Champions.

Lucha Libre Taco Shop by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Unlike the rest of the tables at the place, this one is beautiful. It is roped off with velvet ropes. You are served your tacos and burritos on REAL plates with REAL silverware. Your glasses are filled with the wine you ordered. While the rest of us normal schelps watch you eat in style, you are treated like a champion.

Here is a feature on KUSI News – San Diego:

You can see all the photos I took that night here:


1810 West Washington St., San Diego, CA 92103
Google Map
Phone: (619) 296-8226

October 22, 2008

Salt Lake City, Utah: NakedJen Reviews Hatch Family Chocolates

Filed under: Food,Places To Visit,Utah — Laura Moncur @ 10:15 am

Hatch Family ChocolatesNakedJen moved to Salt Lake City less than a year ago and has been eagerly exploring the culinary delights that the city has to offer. Here is her review of Hatch Family Chocolates:

I took a straw. I took a sip. It was so thick, so creamy, it got stuck washing over my tongue and coated my throat like a warm, chocolate flavored river. I couldn’t help but think of Augustus Gloop slurping from the river in Willy Wonka. I thought perhaps that’s why Calvin insisted on the straw?! So I don’t slurp like Augustus Gloop and end up drowning in my eagerness to drink it all.

If you would like to try Hatch Family Chocolates, here is their information:

Hatch Family Chocolates: Hand-Dipped Chocolates, Hot Chocolate
390 4th Ave
Salt Lake City, UT 84103
Google Map
Phone: (801) 532-4912

Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm

September 24, 2008

San Francisco, CA: Mixt Greens

Filed under: California,Food,Places To Visit — Laura Moncur @ 1:54 pm

Nicole Lee took a trip to Mixt Greens.

mixt greens by Nicole Lee from Flickr

She called it a yuppie salad bar and then went on to specify that it was Yuppie with a capital Y!

Lettuce rock your world by Nicole Lee from Flickr

Their sign says, “Lettuce rock your world.” Yep, that’s the same slogan I used when I ran for 7th Grade Vice President. Still a knee slapper.

Salad toppings by Nicole Lee from Flickr

Her verdict that the place didn’t live up to its price tag. If you’re looking for more atmosphere than salad, then maybe Mixt Greens is for you. Otherwise, opt for the salad bar at Whole Foods.


Mixt Greens
120 Sansome Street San Francisco, CA
475 Sansome Street (on Commercial) San Francisco, CA
560 Mission Street San Francisco, CA

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