eats, extras

Van Life: What Our Friends Eat On The Road

Today’s special extra comes from our DINK friends, Courtney and Bryce Zinckgraf. For those of you who don’t know us, Courtney and Bryce are the reason we’re married and so in love. They paired us to walk down the aisle together at their wedding, and the rest is history. But this post isn’t about us – it’s about them!

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“Hi! We are from Jacksonville, FL. We quit our jobs, bought a 30-year-old van named Hidalgo and fixed it up. Now, we are living full time in the van while we drive around America seeing National Parks and meeting cool people.”

For those of who haven’t seen any of their videos yet, you’re in for a real treat. You can follow their journey HERE (and hit “Subscribe” – you won’t regret it).


But this EXTRA is all about their most recent video, which is what they eat in a typical day. We wanted to share two of their recipes with you, since we’re such foodies! See the full video and the two recipes below:

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 Avocado
  • ½ Medium onion
  • 1 Apple -1 tomato
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
Directions:
  • Empty chickpeas into a large bowl
  • Mash about ½ to ¾ of the chickpeas
  • Add avocado and mash to combine
  • Dice the onion, apple, and tomato
  • Add diced onion, apple and tomato to bowl with chickpeas and avocado
  • Add salt and garlic powder to taste
  • Stir to combine
Other things that are good in chickpea salad sandwich:
  • Mustard
  • Celery
  • Pickles
  • Lots of possibilities!

Peanut Butter Stir Fry

Ingredients:
  • Rice Noodles (check package for serving size and cooking instructions)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 small package of mushrooms
  • 1 head of broccoli Sauce
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic (or however much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger (or however much you want) –
  • Splash of water to thin it out
Directions
  • Cook rice noodles based on packaging instructions
  • While the noodles are cooking combine all of the sauce ingredients and mix well
  • Dice the onion and pepper
  • Cut up the broccoli
  • Lightly stir fry the onions, pepper, mushrooms and broccoli (or cook to your liking)
  • Combine rice noodles, veggies, and sauce
  • Mix to combine

Viola – there you have it! A special treat from our two friends who are pursuing their dreams and have the most incredible videos and photos to prove it. We hope you enjoyed this EXTRA and continue following Courtney and Bryce on YouTube or Instagram.

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extras

How To Tuesday: Build A Raised Planter Box

Recently we have been dabbling in growing small herbs on our kitchen windowsill, and then Joey caught the bug when he planted a pineapple and it started to take off! We had talked about starting a real garden in the backyard but didn’t know exactly what we wanted, because Regal also loves to play in the yard. Joey decided he was going to build a raised planter box, so we could move it around the yard if need be and keep the plants out of harms way (aka Regal and his racquetball). To make the planter, box it only took about 5 hours on a Sunday morning/afternoon and cost about $100 in supplies. If you decide to give this a try, don’t hesitate to ask us questions and be sure to tag us on Facebook or Instagram so we can see how it turned out!

**These supplies and measurements are based off the 4ft x 2ft x 11in box we made and it stands about waist high (30 inches).**

Supplies:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Saw Horse
  • Nails ( 1-5/8in. )
  • Screws (1-1/4in. )
  • Wood Glue
  • Cedar Boards 1x4x8 (3 total)
  • Cedar Boards 1x6x8 (5 total)
  • Cedar Board 1x2x8 (1 total)

*We used cedar wood because it is strong, does not contain chemical like pressure treated and does not rot easily.*

Steps & Directions:

  1. Pick up the supplies from your local home improvement store.
  2. Measure and cut the 1x4x8 into eight 30 inch pieces for the legs and one piece 24 inches in length
  3. Assemble the four legs by overlapping two pieces of wood making a right angle (see pictures below for set up).  Apply wood glue along the edge of one piece and clamp them together, one on the top and one on the bottom to help the glue set.
  4. While the two pieces are clamped together, nail the center section together with two nails equal distance from the top and bottom clamps. After you remove the clamps hammer in a nail where the clamps were.
  5. Repeat steps 3&4 until all four legs are assembled.
  6. Measure and cut the 1x6x8 boards into four 4ft long pieces.  These will be used for the long side of the box.
  7. Measure and cut the 1x6x8 boards into four 2ft long pieces. These will be used for the width sides of the box.
  8. If you made the first cuts correctly, you should have leftover 1×4. Take what you have and cut them into four 4in. to 5in. pieces.  You will use these to attach the Length & Width pieces when they are stacked together on the soil facing side of the wood. (See picture below.)

  9. Once you have all the sides stacked and attached you are ready to glue and screw them to the legs.
  10. Take one side at a time and line it up with the inside of a leg.  Apply some wood glue to the leg where you will screw the side to the leg. Apply four screws the the soil facing side of the 1×6 into the leg.  When drilling in the screws be sure to go slow so you don’t split the boards or drill to far and go all the way through the leg. 
  11. Repeat step #10 until all 4 sides are secured to the legs.
  12. Your planter box should be taking shape! Now its time to get the bed ready.
  13. Take the 1x2x8 and cut it in half.   You will use these two pieces as the shelf to lay the bed boards on.
  14. Cut the 1x6x8 into eight 24in. pieces.  These will be used for the bed along with the 24in 1×4 from step #2.
  15. Flip the now assembled box upside down so the legs are in the air. You are now going to glue and nail the “shelf” for the bed boards on to the bottom side of the 4ft boards.  Apply glue to the 4ft side of the box and then nail the “shelf” on.  I used about six nails on each “shelf” to give it strength because all the weight of the soil will rest on this. Repeat for the other side.
  16. Return the planter box to the correct standing position and begin to lay the bed boards in.  You might find the 24 in. 1×4 might be a little two wide, if this is the case trim it to fit. (We had to take off about an inch) We liked the way the pieces fit together and decided to not glue or nail them in.
  17. Now you are pretty much done!
  18. We took it one step further and decided to use our JJ George Torch to lightly burn the planter and give it a weathered look.  We chose to do this instead of staining it because it was cheaper and didn’t want to risk chemicals getting into the soil (If that is even possible…).
extras, life

No Landscaping Professionals Needed Here!

Hello, readers! My name is Ashley Kempa – you may know me as Melissa’s fast-talking bestie from the north. My husband Zack and I are also living the DINK life and we’re so excited about Melissa and Joey’s new blog! For Zack and I, the biggest focus of our DINK lifestyle right now is planting roots – both literally (I LOVE my gardens) and figuratively.

Zack and I have been married for just over two years now, and the first year of marriage was focused on finding a home to begin our lives as “The Kempa Family.” While I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, the area near our jobs is about an hour from my hometown so all new territory. We spent several months trying to find a house that was affordable, checked the boxes on our non-negotiables, and would help us to transition from DINK to BARK (Broke Adults Raising Kids – yes, broke…a topic for another day…*cough Daycare cough*).

Here’s what were in our non-negotiables (which have to be realistic based on your budget):

  1. Cannot be a total “gut-job”
  2. 3 Bedrooms with at least 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. Nice community
  5. Close to our jobs

So, here’s what we bought to plant those roots last July:

  1. A house that was owned by the prior owners for a very long time so it just needed some “New, Fresh Love”
  2. 3 Bedrooms w/ 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. AMAZING community
  5. Close to our jobs

My posts on this blog will focus on items number one and number four from the above list – how to add some new, fresh love into your house, and how to be a DINK in a family-friendly community!

But for this post, I’m going to focus on a recent project we did to our house…

DIY Landscaping

Zack and I are DIYers – aka we’re cheap, want to learn new skills, and love watching a vision come to life. The front of our house when we bought it had death-trap stairs leading up to our front sun room. If you were not paying attention or walking too fast, you could absolutely be on your way to an urgent care – hello, twisted ankle. Not good. Instead of paying over $1,000 for a landscaper to come out and re-pave our front steps, I knew we could do this for not a lot of money and learn as we go. Here’s what we started with:

Before

Before

Cute, right?

The first thing we did was tear out all of the bricks and railroad ties. This step only took about 45 minutes and the hardest/longest part was stacking all of the bricks. Even if you were going to hire a landscaper to do this for you, you’d be able to save some money just by tearing out the old yourself before someone comes in to lay the new.

Tearout

Next up, mapping out what we were going to replace these with. We chose to purchase large paver stones for two reasons – they were relatively inexpensive and the larger stones are easier to work with. My parents helped us draw out the dimensions of the steps and calculate how many stones and blocks we would need for the entire project. Having this prepared ahead of time saved us time in the store and money! We learned by slightly changing the sizing of the steps we could save by not needing as many stones and blocks.

Third step – HOME DEPOT.  First trip to home depot included checking the store’s inventory to make sure they would have enough of what we needed – very important! They did, so we began 1 of 3 or 4 trips to Home Depot to get everything we needed….and a few additional purchases like some herbs that got planted in my garden.  My parent’s dog, Mia, helped pick those out.  Isn’t she adorable?

Mia

After several trips, we had the blocks, mapped out our design, and we were ready to go!

Blocks

So, how did we do this?  Let me sum it all up by saying trial and error.  I followed these steps and repeated multiple times until I achieved success:

  1. Dig spot for blocks (thank you, Mom, for your help!)
  2. Lay blocks down
  3. Level in all directions
  4. If not level, lift block up and adjust by adding or removing sand/dirt.

Note: if you are starting from scratch and not working in an area where steps were already existing, you will need sand to level and hold the blocks in place.  Fortunately we did not need to purchase as there was plenty there from the bricks!


After about 6 hours of work, we had two steps completed:

Progress

The remaining last step and flat surface of steps were all completed by Zack – Rockstar! We waited for a few good rains to occur to help the stones settle. We’re now in the maintenance phase where we just adjust a few stones here and there. Aren’t the new steps beautiful?!

We spent $200 total on this project, took 10 or so hours total, and we used the great help of my Mom and Dad (thank you!). We learned how to map out an idea, budget for a project you want to tackle and got several good workouts in while accomplishing the finished project. We’re now already eyeing the entrance into our backyard through our fence gate. New stepping stones would look pretty nice over there…

Until next time, readers!  Be inspired to DIY and give your home some LOVE!

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eats, extras

“Reverse, Reverse”….. Reverse Seared Steaks!

Our First Extra

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Joey, John, and Nick at Sunshine State Eggfest before they won People’s Choice

John Churey…. or Bar B “Chu” as we like to call him, is one of Joe and Melissa’s great friends from Joe’s time at Florida State University. Also an Insurance Wholesaler by trade, Chu is an “Egghead” (Big Green Egg Enthusiast) through and through! After all, he has enough of em to make an omelet…four to be Eggsact!! Not to mention he is head chef of “Risk It…. FOR THE BRISKET” BBQ Team that won the 2018 Sunshine State Eggfest Peoples Choice award, but that’s a post for another time.  In between weddings and insurance Chu loves hanging out at Wassis Meats in Melbourne, FL cooking, and talking all things Big Green Egg every Saturday with the Wassis Posse (Riverway Mike, Capt. Phil, Johnny Bacon, and the Crew). Come on by if you’re ever around the Space Coast!

We’re Eggcited to have Chu as the first “Extra Treats” guest blogger! Follow along his cooks on Instagram @bar_b_chu !

Let’s Start This Thing In Reverse

Love steak, but intimidated by all those Instagram pictures you’ve been seeing? Or looking to switch up your normal hot and fast grilling methods on steaks and chops? Introducing the Reverse Sear! Much like the name implies, the reverse sear is simply a traditional sear….in reverse. Traditional searing starts with searing initially, to create a beautiful crust before baking at a lower temperature until the desired internal temperature is achieved. The Reverse Sear is simply, the reverse! Start by baking steaks or chops at a low temperature (200-250 degrees) until their internal temperature is 5-10 degrees shy of your desired finished internal temperature. Once the steaks are close to desired finished temperature, take a hot skillet or grate and sear for that crunchy, flavorful crust  you would expect to find at the country’s finest steakhouses! Steakhouse quality, without the steakhouse price!

If that didn’t sound like enough of a culinary roller coaster for your taste buds, we stepped this up another notch and added bacon…grease to the equation. Render down some thick cut bacon ahead of time, set the grease aside, and enjoy a little bacon appetizer along the way!


Directions for Reverse Sear:

  1. Rub your steak with a generous amount of seasoning. For Beef I recommend Wassis Classic Steak, or Four41 Fat Henry’s.
  2. Fire up your Big Green Egg, letting the coals burn until smoke stops. Usually 15-20 minutes. Then set Egg for Indirect cooking (with ConvEGGtor, aka plate setter) and adjust vents accordingly to achieve 200-250 degree dome temperature. Return grate to Big Green Egg.
  3. Once the Egg is up to temp, place steaks on grate and let bake until internal temperature reads approximately 5-10 degrees shy of desired finished temperature. A Thermoworks Termapen is a great addition to any pitmasters tool box!
  4. Once steaks are 5-10 degrees shy of finished temp, set aside and cover loosely.
  5. Remove Grate and ConvEGGtor with a good pair of heat resistant gloves, (Blue Fires are my personal favorite), place grate and a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet back on egg, open bottom vent all the way and let the egg heat up for 5-10 minutes until skillet is very hot, leaving the dome open.  
  6. Place butter or bacon grease in skillet and let it heat up.  
  7. Carefully place Steaks in the hot grease or butter for 30-45 seconds per side, keeping a close eye not to burn.
  8. Remove Steaks from Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, and Enjoy Immediately! No Need to rest the meat when using the reverse sear method.
  9. Meat Sweats Commence!

Works on Pork Chops, too!

Feel free to try Reverse Searing on your favorite Pork Chops as well, you’ll love the results! You can achieve similar results with a gas grill/Sous Vide / stove top or any combination of culinary gadgets you have at your disposal, although I am partial to the results produced by the Natural Lump Charcoal, and the heat & moisture retaining properties of the Big Green Egg!

Follow along @Bar_B_Chu on Instagram!