Sunday, February 26, 2012

Favorite Eats: One Pot Boat Spaghetti

No, I am not a "Ragu man" when it comes to eating spaghetti on the boat.  I know that might be easiest, that is, just open a jar and heat it, cook some noodles, and then mix the two together.  It still messes up two pots and "Blech!"  I just don't like it.  I live by my saying, "If you don't treat yourself right, no one else will."  So why would I treat myself so poorly with manufactured spaghetti when I could have boat gourmet?

Rainy & cold at anchor in Mereworth Sound
This spaghetti recipe, like so many oh so great boat meals, was borne of desperation, lack of ingredients, and laziness.  The crew and I had just spent all day cruising, we were all wet, tired, and cold.  The crew demanded to have something hearty, flavorful, and comforting.  Yes, comforting!  Spaghetti is one of those all-time favorite comfort foods that will tame a scurrilous crew.  It also uses bacon.  You know everything tastes better with bacon.  The boat smells better with bacon, everyone starts smiling because of the aroma of cooking bacon.  Luckily by making this dish I averted disaster and ended up having a full, happy, and satisfied crew.  So, before you leave port make sure you have the following victuals in your larder.  Bacon - thick cut the better, cream cheese, chicken broth or chicken bullion cubes, canned tomatoes, red wine (duh!), Italian seasoning (or dried basil and oregano), onion powder, garlic powder, dry spaghetti noodles.  Optionally you might want to have some dried red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan cheese, and dried parsley.  As far as cooking utensils, you will need only a pot, plates or bowls for the captain and crew, and of course forks to eat. (The less clean up the better.)

Ready?  Let's get started... Chop the bacon into quarter inch or so pieces.  Heat your pot over medium-high heat and fry the bacon until just barely crisp, or to how you like it.  Remove the bacon from the pot, along with most of the grease leaving about one tablespoon of grease in the pot.  Turn down the heat to medium.

Next add one tablespoon each of the onion, garlic powders to the pot and stir them about for about one minute. If you have a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes add this now.  If you are using fresh onion and garlic, cook until the onion is soft then add the garlic.  Do not burn your onion and garlic whether fresh or dried!  Ooh the boat is smelling even better now.  Anticipation for supper is rising.

Next add the chicken broth (either canned or using bullion cubes already mixed with water), canned tomatoes, quarter cup red wine, Italian seasoning (1 1/2 t or 1 t of oregano and 1/2 t of basil), half of the bacon, and three cups of water to the pot (I simply use the empty chicken broth can, fill it with water, and put two cans of water in).  Increase the heat and get the mix to a boil.  When boiling add a good two inch grab of dried spaghetti noodles to the pot.  Mix the noodles well into the pot.  Now, turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the noodles cook for about 12 minutes.  Enjoy a glass of wine while you wait.  Stir the noodles occasionally while cooking to ensure there are no clumps and that they are cooking evenly.  When the noodles are cooked but still slightly chewy (al dente) remove the pot from the heat.

Next, add half of a block (about four ounces) of cream cheese and a good measure, if you have it, of Parmesan cheese.  Mix the cheeses well with the noodles, cover, and let the pot sit for five minutes.  This will thicken up the sauce.  Finally add the other half of the bacon to the pot along with some dried parsley and serve.  Viola!  You have a good creamy, comforting, tomato and bacon spaghetti that only used one pot.  Kids and adults love the taste and the easy clean up too.

We've enjoyed this recipe so much that we have experimented by adding prawns, left over grilled salmon, or even smoked salmon to this dish too. All of these "experiments" were hits with this recipe. When using cooked prawns, salmon, or smoked salmon make sure you add them when you add the cream cheese to the noodles.  Hmm?  I bet it would taste good with clams or mussels too.  Again, I would add them when adding the cream cheese to the noodles.  If you add the seafood too soon it would end up over-cooked.  Another time, to "dress it up" I topped the spaghetti off with some chopped sun dried tomatoes which added an extra special taste.  Enjoy!

Here's the full recipe in recipe form:
One-pot Boat Creamy Bacon Spaghetti
  • 5 strips (or more) bacon
  • 1 T onion powder -or- 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T garlic powder -or- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes, or diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 t Italian seasoning -or- 1 t dried oregano & 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 can chicken broth -or- 2 chicken bullion cubes in 1 1/2 C water
  • 3 cups water
  • 2" diameter "grab" of dry linguine or spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces (half of an 8 ounce brick) cream cheese cut into chunks
  • 1 t dried fresh parsley
Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and cook in a pot over medium heat, stirring to separate the bacon into pieces. Cook until bacon to your desired doness, then remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot and reduce the heat to low. Add the dried onion, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.  Don't burn it!  If you are using fresh onions, cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and soft.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning and half of the reserved bacon to the pot.  Increase heat to medium high, and bring the mixture to a boil. When it is fully boiling, add in the noodles, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the noodles are soft but chewy (al dente). Remove the pot from the heat.

Next stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and the cubed cream cheese, cover again and let stand for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, stir well to mix the noodles in the sauce. The melted cream cheese will thicken the sauce.

Serve with the remaining bacon and parsley on top.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Summer Trip Planning - Fuel Cost

World events and conditions are causing fuel prices to go up, up, up.  There's speculation that gasoline prices will hit $5.00 a gallon by the Memorial Day Holiday.  And, generally diesel prices are higher than gasoline prices.  Recently I was in Canada, and considering the dollar exchange and the cost per liter fuel prices were shocking, at $4.62 per gallon (US) of gasoline and diesel at the pump was $4.69 (US).  As a result, I've heard from plenty of boating pals that they are planning to do the "Staycation" and cruise locally versus going any far distance such as Desolation Sound or the Broughtons.  Several said instead of going north, they'd go south and spend time in the South Sound.

The MV Independence has a six cylinder, naturally aspirated Ford Lehman diesel.  Over the past 20 years of cruising I've found this motor to be not only reliable but economical too.  I monitor every trip by noting the RPMs, nautical miles, the average speed, and distance traveled and enter these numbers into my log book.  Then when I get fuel I can make a good estimation of miles per gallon per RPM.  Last year I made a conscious effort to reduce my cruising RPM by 100 from 1750 to 1650 RPMs.  Sure this slowed me down, but I made sure to plan my trip to take advantage of the current.  As a result I was able to cruise almost 600 nautical miles with an average speed of 5.92 knots and a 1.38 GPH.  If I would have stayed at 1750 RPM like I have in previous years a similar cruise had an average speed of 5.98 knots at 1.63 GPH.  Hmm?  100 RPMs lower, saving me 0.25 gallons per hour, but only an average speed difference 0.06 knots?  I'd say that cruising at a higher RPM is not worth the cost in fuel.  I went back through years and years of trips up the coast comparing the miles traveled, average speed, fuel consumed, and the results were the same year after year - lower RPMs = cost savings, without sacrificing much speed.

However "dock talk" spurred a curious assumption, "Sure you're traveling slower and saving fuel, but in the end you'll burn more fuel because it takes you longer to get there."  Could that be true?  Was I just fooling myself?  So once again I delved into the MV Independence log book, looked over 20+ years of nautical miles, speed, RPMs, and fuel fill ups and came up with the following table which proved to me that there was a "sweet spot" where RPMs, and fuel cost are optimized.  I thoroughly explained the table to my "dock talk doubters" and one-by-one they all agreed, you can save cost by traveling slower.  You just need to determine what is best for your boat.
Click on chart to get a better view

I then looked at the miles a typical trip to Desolation Sound (like last year's) would cost based on the calculations in my table.  Again, I said "Hmm?"  The cost varied from less than $600 to over a $1,000 based on an estimated fuel cost of $4.76 per gallon, and depending on RPM and currents.  So, will we stay close to home, or will we travel up the coast for our 23rd year?  We will keep an eye on fuel costs, and plan the tides and currents to and from our destination.  If the current is not right, we'll make plans to stay until it is, or plan a shorter cruising day.  I'd recommend that you too evaluate your RPM, speed, and fuel rate so you too can find your "sweet spot" and then plan the tides each day for each cruising leg so you can have a great economical summer cruise.  We will also mentally adjust to recognize that it is about the journey not the destination.  For me, the worst day cruising still beats the best day at work.

Oh, and one more thing... make sure your boat's bottom is clean and free of any growth.  Any growth such as mussels or barnacles growing off a transducer, propeller, or on your rudder will affect your speed. Now I always check my boat bottom prior to any summer cruise to ensure it is growth free.  Here's an excerpt from my log book describing what growth can do to speed.

July 24, 2000  4322.6
Saturday.  Day 1 of our trip north.  The whole thing started out a little stressed.  Skies were gray and the clouds low.  We got a wee bit of a late start, but it was okay.  As we headed up Budd Inlet we weren’t making the speed as I thought we should.  We were only doing 6 kts and the engine temp was a bit high.  So we pulled into Boston Harbor where I proceeded to scuba dive the boat.  My wife drove up from town to help and brought me a nice hot cup of coffee.  The prop was covered with barnacles, it took me 20 min. and 1,000lbs of air to scrape those bastards off.  Also the engine intake had a “beach ball” sized clump of mussels growing off of it.  That’s why the engine was running a bit hot.  We left Boston Hbr. about 0910 and immediately noticed an increase in speed of over 1kt. and the engine temp. was much cooler.  Besides it was better to see Mom again; the kids were much happier than leaving her at the dock this morning.  The morning clouds are burning off and it looks to be a nice day.  No wind.  So onward north again.

For more information on Tides and Current planning see my previous blog posts at:
Happy Cruising!