Banana Brown Sugar Caramel Strata

Layers of fluffy French toast cubes, warm gooey bananas, covered in brown sugar caramel sauce, topped with a brown sugar crumble, and drizzled with maple syrup. Do I have your attention?

This strata is breakfast comfort food and, while it is a bit challenging to make (i.e., multiple steps), it’s so worth it. It’s great for camp in a Dutch oven or at home in a casserole dish for a holiday or weekend breakfast or brunch. We’ve made this a couple times at home and in camp and, each time, it’s received rave reviews.

A strata is a great way to make French toast for a crowd without having to stand at the griddle flipping slices of bread. It can be sweet or savory. This one is most certainly sweet. With a few substitutions, this could also be dairy and/or gluten-free.

A strata is also perfect for making in camp in a Dutch oven. A lot of this can be prepped at home so, in camp, it’s just some assembly required. Just allow enough time in the morning to assemble and let it rest while the bread soaks up the egg mixture before baking. About 20 minutes of rest ought to do it. If you want that occasional big hit of banana, slice your bananas thicker. I prefer to dice my bananas so there is a little bit of banana in every bite. Either way is yummy. It’s just personal preference.

If you’re making at home, this French toast casserole can be assembled the night before, placed in the refrigerator overnight, and baked in the morning. In the morning, all you have to do is add the topping and bake. Again, great for a holiday or weekend brunch.

12-inch Dutch oven or casserole dish, medium sauce pan or skillet, large bowl, whisk, cutting board, knife, small bowl, measuring cups and spoons.

Ingredients for Brown Sugar Banana Filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ripe-firm bananas peeled, sliced and quartered

Ingredients for French toast
8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 15-ounce loaf French bread cut into large cubes (preferably a day or two old)

Ingredients for Topping
1/3 cup light brown sugar packed
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients for Serving (Mix & Match)
Maple syrup, caramel sauce, sliced bananas, chopped nuts, and whipped cream.

Prep Brown Sugar Banana Filling
At home or in camp, in a medium skillet or sauce pan on medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and carefully stir in the bananas. Set aside and cool to room temperature while you prepare the French toast. If prepping at home, load the sauce into a container and add the bananas in camp so they are fresh.

Prep FrenchToast
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, half and half, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. This can be poured into a bottle that has a tight seal for the ride to camp in the cooler.

Prep Topping
In a small sealable container or resealable bag, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and, using a spoon or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles wet, clumpy sand. Seal and refrigerate (cooler) until you are ready to bake the French toast.

Assembly if Making at Home
Grease a 2 1/2 or 3 quart casserole dish. Place half the bread cubes in the bottom. Spoon half of the banana-brown sugar mixture over the bread. Top with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the custard (egg mixture) evenly over the bread cubes. Lightly press down on the top of the bread to allow the top layer of bread to absorb some of the custard mixture. Spoon the remaining banana-brown sugar mixture over the top of the French toast. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until bread has soaked up all liquid.

Assembly if Making in Camp
Line a 12-inch Dutch oven with foil and grease with butter or non-sticking cooking spray. Place half the bread cubes in the bottom. Spoon half of the banana-brown sugar mixture over the bread. Top with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the custard (egg mixture) evenly over the bread cubes. Lightly press down on the top of the bread to allow the top layer of bread to absorb some of the custard mixture. Spoon the remaining banana-brown sugar mixture over the top of the French toast. Cover and rest 20-30 minutes or until bread has soaked up all liquid.

When you’re ready to bake, crumble the topping over the French toast.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 40-55 minutes until puffy and golden brown, and set (check that the center is not too wet). Baking time will depend on how deep your casserole dish is and whether you prefer your French toast more well done. Refresh coals as needed.

Serve immediately with syrup, caramel sauce, whipped cream and/or chopped nuts.

Serves 6-10

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Sugar is the Sweetness to Our Savory

It seems like sugar has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but when critics of “sugar” talk about its high or increased consumption or link it to obesity and other life-threatening diseases, they inaccurately and misleadingly lump natural sugar (from sugar cane and sugar beets) together with man-made sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup and all the other caloric sweeteners manufactured from starch.

Sugar isn’t high-fructose corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup certainly isn’t sugar. The scientific name for sugar is sucrose, and it is a natural substance found in plants (primarily sugar beets and sugar cane). Sucrose, whether still in a plant or in our sugar bowl, is the same: equal parts fructose and glucose bound together at the molecular level.

By contrast, high-fructose “corn” syrup isn’t found in corn at all. Instead, advanced processes are required to manufacture glucose and fructose from corn starch, and they are then mixed in varying proportions, usually with high percentages of fructose.

Sugar (Sucrose) is Not Evil

Sugar is a healthy part of a diet. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are the preferred sources of the body’s fuel for brain power, muscle energy, and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell.

Naturally present in fruits and vegetables, sugar is most highly concentrated in sugar beets and sugar cane. Sugar is simply separated from the beet or cane plant, and the result is 99.95% pure sucrose (sugar). The sucrose from sugar beets and sugar cane is not only identical to one another, but each is the same as the sucrose present in fruits and vegetables.

Beyond its contributions as a sweetener and flavor-enhancer, sugar:

  • Interacts with molecules of protein or starch during the baking and cooking process.
  • Acts as a tenderizer by absorbing water and inhibiting flour gluten development, as well as delaying starch gelatinization.
  • Incorporates air into shortening in the creaming process.
  • Caramelizes under heat, to provide cooked and baked foods with pleasing color and aroma.
  • Speeds the growth of yeast by providing nourishment.
  • Serves as a whipping aid to stabilize beaten egg foams.
  • Delays coagulation of egg proteins in custards.
  • Regulates the gelling of fruit jellies and preserves.
  • Helps to prevent spoilage of jellies and preserves.
  • Improves the appearance and tenderness of canned fruits.
  • Delays discoloration of the surface of frozen fresh fruits.
  • Enables a wide variety of candies through varying degrees of re-crystallization.
  • Controls the reformation of crystals through inversion (breakdown to fructose and glucose).
  • Enhances the smoothness and flavor of ice cream.

Sugar is Natural

Relying less on processed foods and cooking more fresh and from scratch using natural ingredients allows us more control over what we eat and how we fuel our bodies. Sugar deserves a place in our diets and in our pantries.

Here are a few different kinds of sweetners you can use:

Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar: The finest white sugar that you can get. It is about 3% cornstarch to help keep it from clumping. It is used for making icing or glazing baked goods.

Granulated Sugar: The white table sugar that everyone is accustomed to. It is the one most commonly used in recipes.

Coarse Sugar: White sugar that has a much larger crystal size. It is often used for decorating.

Turbinado Sugar: This is raw cane sugar with the surface molasses removed. It has a coarse texture and a blonde color.

Brown Sugar: The brown sugar that we purchase in the store is often granulated white sugar with molasses mixed back in, this can be done at home in your food processor by adding one tablespoon of molasses per cup.

Muscovado Sugar: A very dark, natural brown sugar that has a higher concentration of molasses left in. It has a stickier texture than most sugars. It is used in strongly flavored sweets such as gingerbread.

Honey & Maple Syrup: You can replace granulated sugar with maple syrup or honey in most recipes. Use ¾ cup maple syrup or honey for every 1 cup of granulated sugar. When baking with maple syrup or honey reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for every cup used and reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to avoid burning. Maple syrup and honey can be used interchangeably.

Everything in Moderation

So, there is a lot of good to be found in sugar, but just like with everything else, moderation is key. Do I need 3 tablespoons of sugar in my coffee or tea every morning? No. One or two teaspoons is just fine and is not going to hurt me, and might even make my brain and my body feel a little happier.

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Pizza Pasta One Pot

Our family loves pasta and we love pizza so this was a lot of fun to make. And, just like pizzeria pizza, this pasta dish could be customized to your personal taste. Make it like your favorite pizza. You could use gluten-free pasta or a whole wheat pasta. You could change up the meats, add some vegetables like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, or make vegetarian pizza pasta.

This pasta dish really did taste just like a pizza and everyone loved it. Another great thing about this dish is that it is a one pot recipe. One-pots are great for camp because you’re only using one pot and one burner, making for less mess and less cleanup. And, this meal goes together fast. We were able to get dinner onto the picnic table in less than 30 minutes, which makes this recipe great for a roll-into-camp night or an evening meal after a busy day of outdoor activities.

Serve this with a salad and some bread sticks and you’ll feel like you’re sitting down to eat at your favorite pizza place.

Large skillet with lid or 12-inch Dutch oven, cutting board, knife, measuring cups and spoons.

2 tablespoon olive oil
16 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed, mild or spicy
1 cup mini pepperoni or regular pepperoni quartered
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
16 ounces rotini pasta
12 ounces water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Red pepper flakes for serving
Parmesan, grated, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat. Stir in half of the pepperoni and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, pasta, and 12 ounces water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12-14 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure pasta is absorbing the liquid.

Reduce heat; top with mozzarella and remaining pepperoni, and cover until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley. Serve with red pepper flakes and Parmesan just for fun.

Serves 10-12

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Good Dish Washing in Camp

My older scouts have learned the value of good dish washing in camp. But when scouts first cross over into the troop, it can be a challenge. At home, they probably just load their dirty dishes into an automatic dishwasher so this concept of hand washing dishes may be completely foreign to them.

I can’t count the number of times over the years I have told scouts to wash their dishes in hot soapy water and yet, I still catch them washing their dishes underneath a community spigot with cold water and no soap. Washing dishes in this manner will take longer, wastes a lot of water, creates an unsanitary area around the water spigot, and simply will not get the dishes clean or sanitized, creating health issues for campers down the trail.

I’ve even seen young campers just stack their dirty dishes, pots and pans back into their chuck box. I’m not sure if they just don’t realize they will have to wash them before they can use them again or they believe the chuck box works like their dishwasher at home and will just magically clean them. If we don’t catch it, sometimes the dirty dishes ride back home in their chuck box, which gets unloaded from the trailer and stored in the shed. When the chuck box is opened on the next campout, all manner of molds and germs have grown (see gross image below). We’ve had to throw away things like the wooden spoon below because we’ll never get them clean enough to be used safely. It’s a hard lesson sometimes.

Washing dishes in camp does not have to be hard nor does it need to take a long time. Here are some simple tips for good dish washing that will help you stay healthy and minimize the impact on the environment.


  • I have an adjustable table that I can raise to counter height. I use it in my cook shelter as a prep and serving place. If you don’t have a table, you could use the end of a picnic table.
  • A set of three plastic dish pans. Use tubs that are large enough to accommodate what you will need to wash, but are not so big that you have to boil gallons of water to fill them.
  • Large pot with a lid or a large kettle for boiling water.
  • Dishwashing soap (I prefer Dawn for its grease cutting abilities and it’s easy on the environment).
  • Scrub brush, nylon scrubby pad, scrapers, etc.
  • Small bottle of bleach or steramine tablets.
  • Mesh bags and/or collapsible drain rack.
  • Cheesecloth.
  • Heavy duty trash bags.
  • Rope for a clothesline.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Heat Your Water
Before you actually serve the meal, start a kettle or large pot of water on the fire or the stove. By the time you are done eating, the water will probably be boiling.

Set Up Your Wash Station
Clear one of your prep tables or the end of a picnic table and set out your dish pans and drying rack (if you’re using one). This is way more comfortable and preferable than setting your wash tubs on the ground and squatting while you wash your dishes (yes, I’ve seen my scouts do that).

Divide your boiling water between the wash tub (first dish pan) and the rinse tub (second dish pan). Top off each of these pans with just enough cold water to take the sting off. Keep the water as hot as you can stand it. To the wash tub, add a few drops of soap, and mix in. Fill your third dish pan with cold water and add just 2 steramine tablets or a little (and I mean a little) liquid bleach. You only need 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach per gallon of water. I usually start a second batch of water just in case my wash and/or rinse water becomes too dirty and I need fresh water. By the time you want to refresh the water, it will probably be ready.

Prep Your Dishes for Washing
Each camper is responsible for taking their napkin and wiping their dishes clean, getting off as much food residue as possible. With hungry campers and good food, this is usually not a problem. I’ve even watched scouts literally lick their plates clean. For the cook, there is no higher complement than that. Pre-cleaning your dishes as well as your pots and pans will keep your dish water cleaner, longer. Wipe or dust off any soot on your pots and pans.

Organize your dishes, pots and pans so that you are washing the cleanest dishes first and the dirtiest dishes last. Always save your greasy pots and pans for last. You can always make a fresh hot soapy wash and rinse.

Hot Soapy Wash
Everything gets a good scrubbing in the hot, soapy water. Run your fingers over surfaces to make sure there is nothing stuck on. Pots and pans that are greasy need to be tested before they are rinsed. Rub a finger inside the pot and if there’s still grease, you will need to wash it with soapy water a second time. Drain and/or shake off as much soapy water as possible so as not to contaminate your rinse water.

Hot Water Rinse
After all the soapy water has been drained off the dishes, submerge them in the rinse water. If you can’t completely submerge them, use a cup, bowl or your cupped hand to pour rinse water over the dishes. It is important to rinse off all the soap because soap residue on your dishes can give you diarrhea.

Sanitizing Soak
In the third dish pan, submerge dishes in the sanitizing solution for a full minute to sanitize them. From here they are loaded into mesh bags and hung on a clothesline or arranged in a drying rack to air dry.

Air Dry
Air drying is best. It is very effective and you are not using roll after roll of paper towels. You can also dry dishes using dish towels, but once the dish towels become soaked, it is difficult to get anything dry with them. You can hang them on a clothesline, but unless you have sun light and/or a good breeze, it can take a while to dry them. In addition, they need to be dry by the end of the day so they can be taken down and placed in one of your totes; otherwise, they will pick up condensation over night and be damp in the morning. If you are using dish towels to dry your dinner dishes, odds are the towels will not be dry before you go to bed. The two best methods for air drying are hanging dishes in mesh bags or arranging them in a drying rack.

Rinse Dishpans and Dispose of Gray Water
Now that all the dishes are clean and work surfaces have been wiped down, take a piece of cheesecloth and strain your wash water into a gray water sump. This is usually located at the community spigot. The food particles caught in the cheesecloth can be thrown into the trash. Using your rinse water, rinse out the wash tub. Finally, pour your sanitizing water from the third dish pan into the rinse pan and let it stand for a minute, then pour it into the wash dish pan and let it stand for a minute before pouring into the sump. If a sump is not available, you will need to carry your dish pans at least 75 steps from any streams, lakes, campsites, or trails. Fling the water with a long sweeping throw to spread it over a large area. Choose a sunny area, if possible, so it will evaporate quickly, causing minimal impact.

Dispose/Secure Your Trash
After dinner or after the evening cracker barrel, secure and walk your trash to the camp trash dumpster. You want to avoid leaving it in your campsite overnight because it will attract critters and they will easily tear open the bag and scatter trash as they rummage through it looking for food.

Start water to boil.
Set up dish washing station.
Pre-clean your dishes.
Wash cleanest to dirtiest.
Hot soapy wash.
Hot clean rinse.
Cold sanitizing soak.
Air dry in mesh bags or a rack.
Dispose of gray water.
Secure trash.

If you follow these steps, washing dishes should go quickly and easily, and they will be safe to use for your next meal.

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Cinnamon Roll Pancakes


These pancakes are simply amazing. One of my fellow scouters, Stephanie, was our grubmaster on the last campout and she made these for breakfast Saturday morning. They were awesome! They taste just like a cinnamon roll. You can top them with cream cheese glaze or maple syrup or both if you want to double down on the sugar! Everyone opted for the cream cheese glaze. Toward the end of breakfast, I saw Scoutmasters coming back to the table and just picking up a pancake with their hands and walking away. Folks just couldn’t stop eating them. It was great!

These are a bit labor intensive, but a lot of the prep could be done at home before you go with just some assembly required in camp.

For the cinnamon filling, you could use a plastic condiment squeeze bottle or a resealable bag. The condiment bottle will provide more control when swirling onto the pancakes; however, it will take a little longer to clean out. Same is true for the cream cheese glaze. If you opt for condiment bottles, pack a bottle brush and clean up should be easy.

You’ll need to manage the temperature of your griddle closely as too hot of a griddle can lead to burning cinnamon glaze, also making for more challenging cleanup.

I also recommend warming the cream cheese glaze so that you’re not putting cold glaze on hot pancakes.

When I made these for my family, I made ¼-cup sized pancakes and the recipe made 9 pancakes. My son ate three pancakes and my daughter and I both thought two was enough. You could serve these with bacon or sausage and fruit to round out the meal.

My daughter called these decadent and said she wouldn’t need any sugar for the rest of the day!

Again, these pancakes are a little high maintenance, but well worth the effort. They are a fun variation from the regular pancakes and will surprise and delight your campers of all ages. Definitely a winner, killer breakfast.

Ingredients for Pancake Batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling
½ cup butter, melted
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Glaze
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ounces cream cheese, melted
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prep at Home
Prepare cinnamon filling: In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a small resealable plastic bag or into a condiment squeeze bottle for the ride to camp in the cooler. If you’re making these for cooking at home, allow the cinnamon filling to rest and set for at least 20-30 minutes. You want it thick; not runny. This is an important step. It takes 20-30 minutes for the butter and brown sugar to completely emulsify.

Prepare dry ingredients for pancake batter: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and load into a resealable plastic bag or hard-sided container. (If you choose a large enough container, it can also serve as the mixing bowl in camp.) This will ride to camp in your food tote.

Prepare wet ingredients for pancake batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, oil, and egg and pour into a plastic or glass jar with a tight seal for the ride to camp in the cooler.

Prepare cream cheese glaze: In a medium glass or microwave-safe bowl, or in a pan on the stove on low heat, warm the butter and cream cheese until melted. Remove from heat and whisk together until smooth, then whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour into a condiment squeeze bottle or a plastic container for the ride to camp in your cooler. After arriving at camp, if the glaze feels a little too thick, you can thin it with a little milk.

Prep in Camp
Pull your cinnamon filling and cream cheese glaze out of the cooler and allow them to come up to the ambient temperature. If you want a warm cream cheese glaze, you could warm it in a bowl of hot water.

Prepare pancake batter: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until batter is moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX; a few small lumps are okay. Add a little milk to thin it if you need to.

For the cinnamon filling, if you are using a resealable plastic bag, squeeze all of it down to a corner of the bag and snip off a tiny (and I mean tiny) corner of the baggie. You’ll pipe the filling onto the pancakes like piping on cake frosting.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Grease with canola oil. Scoop ¼-cup to ½-cup of pancake batter onto the griddle, depending on the size of pancakes you want. Squeeze a spiral of the cinnamon filling onto the top of the pancake (work quickly because you want the pancake to poof up around the filling). When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, and the outer edge of the pancake starts to look dry, flip carefully with a spatula and cook until lightly browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer pancakes to a foil packet or a heated Dutch oven and keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes.

When ready to serve, drizzle warmed cream cheese glaze on top of each pancake. No syrup required; however, you could have some available for folks who want it either in place of or in addition to the cream cheese glaze.

Makes 8-9 ¼-cup pancakes or 4-5 ½-cup pancakes.

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Planning Your Camping Menu

I don’t know about your households, but the dreaded question in my household is always: “What shall we make for dinner?” It’s almost always answered with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or plenty of shrugs. Eventually, we figure it out, but sometimes I feel as if pulling teeth would be easier.

Creating a camping menu can be just as challenging at times. Here are 12 things that will help you plan a great camping menu and influence what you make.

Food Pyramid
First and foremost, you always want to plan a menu that is healthy and nutritious. When we’re camping, we’re working and playing hard. Our bodies need good fuel to keep us going; fuel like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Check the 10 day forecast for the area you are going to be camping in. Is it going to be warm, sunny, cold, rainy, snowy? Weather can help you decide if you’re going to go with a hot and hearty menu or a fresh and cold menu.

Activity Level
What kinds of activities will you be doing while camping? Will you be working on a service project, playing hard, or just lounging around the campsite? Will you be hiking during the day, and need a portable lunch and snacks?

Food Restrictions
Does anyone you are cooking for have any food allergies or food restrictions? You’ll want to accommodate them as best you can. For some folks, it might simply be an intolerance and a small amount of their restricted food is okay. For others, even a little could be life threatening.

What equipment do you have in your camp kitchen to cook with? You probably have a propane stove. Do you have a box oven or a Dutch oven? Can you cook or heat anything in foil packets? What can you cook with besides your propane stove? More resources means more menu options.

Age/Ability of Cooks
Who’s going to be cooking? Adults and/or youth? Are they experienced or not so much? Plan a menu that fits their level of cooking skills and experience.

What is your budget for the weekend? Do you have a hot dog kinda budget or a steak and shrimp kinda budget? Even if your budget is on the tight side, you can still do a lot and feed your campers well with a good menu plan.

Minimizing Food Waste
Plan your menu so that you’ll have minimal leftovers, which are difficult to manage in a camp setting and are often just thrown away.

Minimizing Packaging Waste
Be mindful of your packaging waste. Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re filling bellies and not filling garbage cans.

Minimizing Clean Up
Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re not having to do a lot of clean up after each meal. Too much prep in camp means more dirty bowls and utensils.

Balance Easy Meals With Challenging Meals
Plan an easy dinner on your first night because you’ll also be needing to set up camp. Likewise, plan an easy breakfast on your last day because you’ll be needing to break down camp and head home. In between, choose a couple of meals where you go big. We like to do a big breakfast Saturday morning and a big dinner Saturday night. This is where we challenge ourselves with more complicated meals because we’ve got more time to execute. At the very least, plan at least one meal that will blow the doors off your campers! They will love you for it!

Finally, for my scouts, are you cooking to meet a requirement for rank or for a badge? If so, be sure to review those requirements and plan your menu to ensure you fulfill them.

All this may seem like a lot to think about, but when you actually sit down to plan your menu, you’ll be surprised how quickly menu planning can go and you can rest assured that you and your fellow campers will eat well.

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Maui Mango Crisp

Here in the Northwest, we’re often camping in cool, cloudy, and sometimes rainy, weather. This mango crisp is a fun and flavorful dessert that brings a little bit of the tropics to your campout. The warm mango and cinnamon filling and the crunchy oat topping are a perfect combination.

When we were grocery shopping for the camping trip, we couldn’t find fresh mangos in the store (we live in a small town), but we were able to find a bag of sliced mangos in the frozen section and I really wanted to make this crisp, so we went for it and they worked beautifully.

We made this crisp Saturday night after a long day of hiking and geocaching and it was a hit with everyone. It was the perfect ending to an already great day.

12-inch Dutch oven, large mixing bowl, medium-size mixing bowl, heavy-duty aluminum foil. At home, you could use a 13×9 baking dish.

Ingredients for Filling
10 mangos, skinned and sliced, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for Topping
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Line your Dutch oven with foil and grease the foil with a little cooking spray. Start 25 coals. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling and pour into the Dutch oven, spreading it evenly. In a medium bowl, mix all the topping ingredients, except cinnamon. Pour topping mixture over mango filling and spread evenly, but do not stir it into the filling. Sprinkle the ground cinnamon over the topping.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 1 hour. Refresh coals as needed.

Serves 14-16

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Avoid the Danger Zone

The best camping trip in the world can be ruined by a bad case of foodborne illness. Symptoms might include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and other problems brought on by salmonella, E. coli, listeria or some other nasty bug.

To make sure you and your fellow campers avoid these potentially serious tummy troubles, which result in more than 100,000 hospitalizations each year, here are some tips on how to transport, cook, and store food on campouts.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we need to watch out for the “Danger Zone” when it comes to serving perishables like meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. When food is stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the cold inhibits the growth of bacteria and other pathogens. When food is cooked above 140 degrees, heat does the same. Between 40 and 140 degrees; however, bacteria can grow quickly, so make sure your food doesn’t stay in the Danger Zone too long.

Food problems can start before you ever make it camp. Be sure to transport perishables in the air-conditioned part of the car, since car trunks can get pretty warm on sunny days. Don’t pack meat in the same coolers as vegetables, because if juices from meat or poultry leak into uncooked vegetables, the veggies will be contaminated. Likewise, don’t put cold drinks in with perishables, since the drink cooler will be opened frequently. The more it’s opened, the faster ice or ice packs will thaw.

Make sure a meat thermometer is a standard piece of equipment in your chuckbox. Cook ground meat (beef, pork, veal or lamb) or meat mixtures until the thermometer reaches 160 degrees. For poultry, it’s 165 degrees. For other fresh meats, you’re safe at 145 degrees.

Finally, remember that food, cold or hot, should not be kept outside a cooler for more than two hours if the outside temperature is below 90 degrees. Above 90, it’s one hour.

As we ramp up for camping season and start planning those marvelous meals, we want you and those you are cooking for to be safe.

Get outside and cook something amazing because food tastes better outside!

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Sausage and Kale Soup

Last week, around dinner time, I received a text from the mom of one of our Boy Scouts, a scout who is close to Eagling I might add. She sent a picture of her youngest son Nathan standing at the stove, stirring a pot. She wrote, “Sausage and kale soup from scratch! The Cooking Merit Badge is the best thing that ever happened to me!” I couldn’t be more proud or thrilled.

This is one of those moments when you dust off your hands and walk away saying, “My work here is done!” Nathan has embraced what he’s learned from a merit badge and he is applying it to his everyday life. His cooking skills will continue to grow and he’ll use them his whole life. And, just at look at that smile. He’s so proud of himself and his smile could light an entire city!

So, after the rave reviews from his family, we had to make the soup ourselves (and so I could photograph it). This is an easy soup to make in camp. It has a little prep and could easily be gotten onto the picnic table in about 30 minutes, making it a great meal for a Friday night after rolling into camp and setting up.

If you are a kale fan, you should like this soup. It’s warm and filling, but not heavy. We served it with our favorite cornbread. You could also make a crusty artisan bread. Any bread would go nicely.

For the sausage, Nathan used turkey sausage. We used a hot Italian pork sausage. Choose your sausage according to your likes and go as mild or as spicy as you want. The recipe calls for wine, which you could omit and just add more chicken stock. I opted to include the wine and used a chardonnay. For the kale, strip the leaves off the stocks and discard the stocks. The leaves just need a rough chop.

6-quart Dutch oven or stock pot, knife, cutting board.

20 ounces sausage, ground or links (remove casings)
1 medium onion, diced
8 cups kale, fresh, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
3 ¼ cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper

Chop the vegetables, drain and rinse the beans, and get everything measured out and ready. Once you start cooking, this one moves pretty quickly. In your Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the sausage and onion until the sausage is no longer pink. Remove and set aside. Add the kale to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the sausage and onions, and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Serves 8

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Camp Kitchen Setups

When we camp, we eat well. I wouldn’t call it gourmet, but it’s healthy (most of the time), balanced, nutritious, and very satisfying. And, we’re constantly trying to change things up. We each have our go-to recipes and our specialties, but we’re always on the hunt for something different. Just like we change our camping locations between beach, mountains, lake, etc., and we change our activities between biking, fishing, canoeing, etc., so we change up our camp menus. It’s all in the spirit of keeping it interesting. None of us like to settle for the same old stuff. All it takes is a little planning, a little culinary ambition, and a good camp kitchen setup, and you, too, can cook like a chef and eat like a king or a queen.

Here’s what I recommend for a good camp kitchen setup:

Chuck Box

You need all your cooking essentials organized and stored in one place. A chuck box can be as simple and economical as a large plastic tote or as complex as a hand-crafted wooden box (DIY tutorials are widely available online). Ideally, your chuck box has compartments or smaller containers for your smaller cooking utensils. It should include all the basic things you need from pots and bowls to knives and vegetable peelers. I always pack heavy-duty aluminum foil for making foil packets. It’s fun to lay out a selection of proteins, veggies, spices, and sauces and everyone assembles their own dinner and cooks it over a fire or coals. For a complete list of what my chuck box includes, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 1-Your Camp Kitchen.”


A reliable stove system is central to every serious camp kitchen. Depending on the amount of packing space in your vehicle, you can decide to go with a compact two-burner system that runs on a one-pound propane canister or you can equip yourself with a larger and more powerful two- or three-burner system that runs on a standard 20-pound propane tank. Generally, you just want to make sure that each burner on the stove you select puts out at least 10,000 BTU/hr, which is the average output of a household stove burner. A number of the larger models that run on standard 20-pound propane tanks will crank out an impressive 30,000 BTU/hr per burner, providing you with an immense range of culinary ability. Many models can also be accessorized with grill boxes and griddles, which make serving up a stack of pancakes or juicy T-bone steaks a simple task.


One or two quality hard-shell coolers will insulate and protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. For safe food handling, it’s important that your iced-cooler keep your foods at or below 40°F. If you can, do your prep work before leaving home. Label your sealed bags of pre-chopped veggies and meats specific to each meal, which allows you to start cooking with minimal prep time. If you plan on packing lots of canned and bottled beverages, consider bringing a second beverage-specific cooler. Beverage coolers are opened and closed frequently, which allows chilled air to quickly escape. If your food is stored in a separate cooler that is opened less frequently, your temperature-sensitive foods will stay chilled for a longer period of time. For more cooler packing tips, see my blog posts, “Chillin’ With Your Cooler” and “Think Inside the Box Part 3-Your Camp Refrigerator.”

Food Tote

Just like a cooler, a hard-sided plastic tote will protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. It will also protect your food from sun and rain and help keep critters out in the middle of the night. Even if you are just making hamburgers, no one wants a bun that’s been flattened like a pancake. For more Food Tote tips, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 2-Your Camp Pantry.”


Even if you do the bulk of your prep work at home, you will still need a place to assemble and prepare your meals. A sturdy camp table is a must-have for your camp kitchen. Not only does it provide valuable work space, but you can also use it like a buffet table.


We usually pack a pop up for a cook shelter. It provides shade when it’s sunny and protection from the rain when it is not, which is most of the time! I like to string a small clothesline along one side for washing cloths and drying towels. Sometimes I attach a tarp to one side and stake out the tarp to provide added shade for my coolers.


In my opinion, an outdoor kitchen wouldn’t be complete without at least one cast iron Dutch oven. From casseroles to cakes, a Dutch oven will allow you to bake just about anything you can bake in your oven at home. A Dutch oven gives you the versatility to prepare a much wider range of dishes. Its rugged durability and its ability to evenly distribute heat, allowing you to cover it with charcoal briquettes, position it in hot coals near an open fire, or place it on the stove top, make it a valuable component of your camp kitchen. For more information about what you need to support your Dutch ovens, see my blog post, “The Right Tool for the Right Job.”

So, there you have it. A good camp kitchen setup will go along way toward making every camping trip a successful one.

What’s in your Chuck box?

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