Spring is Sproinging

Monday was the first day of spring! Are you ready to go camping? Not quite or not sure? Now is a good time to get into the attic, the basement, the garage, the RV, or where ever you store your camping gear and do an assessment.

What needs to be repaired or replaced? Was there anything last year that wasn’t working, but you didn’t have the time or the budget to fix it? Are there any improvements you’d like to make for this year?

A good night’s rest is important.

Are you sleeping as comfortably or as warm as you’d like to? Maybe you need a new cot or a new pad or a new sleeping bag. Maybe all you need is a new set of polypropylene to wear or to sleep in. Speaking of clothing…. How’s that pair of boots feeling? Time for a new pair of hiking boots? In the camp kitchen, I tend to spend a lot of time on my feet so good footwear is important. I also have weak ankles and uneven ground is a recipe for a sprain so having high top boots with good ankle support is important to me.

How’s your camp kitchen looking?

Is your camp kitchen in good shape? Last year, what prevented you from upping your outdoor cooking game? Do you need more workspace? Perhaps you need a new work table. I have a couple tables that have adjustable legs so I can raise them up to a counter height, which my back really likes. I highly recommend them.

Experiment

Would you like to try something new this year? A new activity or a new way of cooking outdoors? If you’ve never cooked in a Dutch oven or a box oven but have wanted to, then let’s set a goal for this year and do it!

Reserve Early, Reserve Often

Now is also a good time to get on the internet and make reservations. Some popular campgrounds fill fast and are difficult to get into. For some of the really popular ones, you should be making reservations 9 months to a year in advance; so while you’re thinking about it, go ahead and make reservations for spring 2018.

Convert Some Non-Campers

Do you have any friends or family members who have never camped or don’t camp much? Maybe they just don’t know how to do it comfortably, so they don’t realize how much fun it can be. Invite them with you and help them up their camping game.

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Enchilada Pull-Aparts

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The first time I made these, I accidentally used diced jalapenos instead of diced green chilies. They were just a wee bit spicy, but we still really liked them. In addition to being hot and tasty, these go together in a snap and take only 30 minutes to bake. You can easily have dinner on the picnic table in under an hour. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and a salad, and you have a great meal.

This is also a dish that you can easily customize. I did, without even intending to, when I swapped the diced green chilies for diced jalapenos. You could swap the red enchilada sauce for green or swap the ground beef for chicken. You could add black beans, diced tomatoes, or some corn. Whatever floats your boat. Have some fun and make it your own. I’ll bet it becomes a family favorite.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven or 9×13 baking dish.

Ingredients
1 package of refrigerated biscuit dough
10 ounces enchilada sauce (we like to use red)
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning or use your own mix
4 ounce can diced green chilies or diced jalapenos
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese

Prep

On a propane stove or over coals, in a Dutch oven, brown the ground beef. Drain the grease and stir in the taco seasoning and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in the diced green chilies or jalapenos. Remove from heat and set aside. Start your coals.

Open the biscuits and slice each biscuit into 8 small pieces. Add the biscuits and enchilada sauce to the Dutch oven and lightly mix everything together like tossing a salad. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 30 minutes or until the biscuits are cooked through and the cheese is fully melted. You could also load this into a 9×13 baking pan and bake it in a box oven, using about 14 coals.

Top with cilantro, avocado or guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

Serves about 8

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Apples of My Eye

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This Saturday, March 11, is National Johnny Appleseed Day. John Chapman (1774-1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. Sounds like a Scout.

Here in Washington state, the apple is our state fruit and Washington produces about 42% of the apples grown in the United States, and 60% of those are grown for fresh consumption.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old Welsh proverb that most of us are familiar with, but what makes this fruit so special?

Nutritional powerhouses, apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

A collection of research studies suggest that apples can improve neurological health and prevent dementia. They can reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes, may lower levels of bad cholesterol, may help prevent breast cancer, and they support the good bacteria in our digestive systems.

Apples only come with one small warning: Apple seeds do contain cyanide, a powerful poison. Eating too many apple seeds can potentially be fatal. Apple seeds should not be consumed. I once read a mystery novel where the villain was slowly poisoning the heroine’s brother by feeding him apple seeds.

Apples are among the most commonly cultivated tree fruits. They come in many varieties and can be grown in many places around the world. There are three main use categories for apples: Dessert (sweet and best suited for eating fresh), Cooking (well-suited for baking in pies and cakes or cooking into sauces or butters), and Cider (small and tart, best suited for making cider). I’m not going to get into the Cider Category because that’s a little more complicated and is probably a whole blog post by itself.

So, let’s take a closer look at some dessert and cooking apples.

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Fuji (Dessert) apples were developed in Japan, but its “parents” are American apples, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Janet. They have a sweet, mild flavor and a crunchy texture.

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Gala (Dessert and Cooking) apples are frequently near the top of the most popular apples list. They were developed in New Zealand by crossing a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red. They are fragrant with a mild, sweet flavor and have a fine texture. In cooking, they are suitable for making sauces.

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Golden Delicious (Dessert and Cooking) apples have thin skins and come from West Virginia. They have a mild, sweet flavor, and a smooth texture. In cooking, they are best for pies.

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Granny Smith (Dessert and Cooking) were one of the first apple varieties to be found in markets internationally. They are originally from Australia. They are tart and have a firm texture. In cooking, they are best for baking.

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Jonagold (Dessert) apples are large with a thin skin originally developed in New York. They are aromatic with a sweet-wine flavor. They are juicy and have a fluffily crisp texture.

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McIntosh (Dessert and Cooking) are some of the most aromatic apples and come from Quebec. They have a sweet flavor and juicy texture. In cooking, they are best for sauces and butters.

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Pink Lady (Dessert) is actually a brand name; the apple itself is a member of a variety called Cripps Pink apples from Western Australia. They have a sweet flavor and crunchy texture.

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Red Delicious (Dessert) apples were America’s favorite apple for nearly 75 years and still ranks in the top 10. Originally developed in Iowa, they are mild, sweet and slightly bitter, and have a crunchy texture.

So, with all the varieties of apples out there, you ought to be able to find at least one that you like. My son and I take gala or Fuji apples in our lunches nearly every day. I find I feel better when I do that.

This Saturday, let’s all raise a glass of apple cider to Johnny Appleseed or celebrate with a slice of apple pie!

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Making Camp Food More Nutritional

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When we’re camping, we tend to eat a lot of protein and grains, aka hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips. Why is that? Because it’s easy and, for some of us, that’s what we grew up with and it’s all that comes to mind when we’re planning our camping menus. Cooking from scratch takes a little more planning, a little more prepping, and a little more cooler space, but it is so worth the effort.

Food is a critical camp component. At the end of a long day of hunting, hiking, swimming or whatever, a good meal can lift your spirits and boost your morale. It is fuel for hard working and hard playing kids and adults. Likewise, a poor meal can leave you malnourished, hungry, and empty both in body and spirit. With a well-fed belly, you’ll stay warmer and sleep better on colder evenings.

When we’re camping, our bodies need quality fuel. For the weekday desk potatoes, which are probably most of us, we’re burning more calories when we’re camping than we do during the work week. Just being outside burns more calories than we normally would.

That’s why cooking healthy in camp is so important—and March is National Nutrition Month so, let’s up our nutrition at home and in camp.

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Whether you are old school and still subscribe to the Food Pyramid or you are new school and subscribe to the My Plate, a balanced diet of proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy is key. Cooking fresh as opposed to processed is also important. Processed foods tend to contain higher amounts of sodium as well as preservatives and other junk. They also make it harder to adapt for allergies because you are stuck with what’s in the box.

Cooking fresh and from scratch is much better for you, tastes amazing, and you have way more control over the ingredients. Cooking fresh gives you the ability to swap out ingredients making it easier to adapt recipes for allergies, picky eaters (we all know one), and health issues.

In my teen years, my grandmother was diabetic and my father had heart disease so we cooked from scratch a lot because we needed to cook without sugar and without salt. We still ate very well and very tasty, and after the initial salt and sugar withdrawals, I actually didn’t miss it much. We learned to compensate by using other spices. My dad made a chili so hot and spicy it would light your nose hairs on fire, but it was so good you just had to keep eating. I learned to appreciate sour cream.

Nowadays, when I’m cooking for an outdoor event or a large campout, I might have to cook gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan. Cooking from scratch enables me to adjust my recipes for the dietary needs of my campers.

So, while cooking from scratch takes a little more effort, it’s much more nutritious, more adaptable, and provides better fuel for our hard working, and hard playing, bodies.

Get outside and get cooking!

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The Mother of All Sauces

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From my earliest days of cooking, I learned how to thicken a sauce and how to make a white sauce. Did I know that I was making a roux or slurry? Did I know that a white sauce was called a béchamel? No. These were just things I learned how to do cooking alongside my mother, grandmother, and my friends’ mothers. How appropriate that here we are talking about mother sauces.

In cooking, there are a handful of sauces that are considered the foundations for many dishes and other sauces.  These are called Mother Sauces. For example, the sauce you use to make macaroni and cheese starts with a roux that becomes a béchamel that turns into a mornay or cheddar sauce when you add Gruyère or Cheddar cheese.

But before we get into sauces, we need to start with thickeners. These are what give a sauce its body so that it coats and clings to food instead of running all over the plate. One way to thicken a sauce is by cooking down and reducing liquids like tomato sauce, which will naturally thicken as moisture evaporates, but most sauces need a little more help.  A roux or a slurry are two ways to thicken a sauce.

A roux is made by whisking one part flour into one part fat (usually butter) until it forms a smooth paste. These will cook briefly to cook out the floury, pasty flavor in the flour. Some dishes will call for cooking the roux until it turns a dark, rich brown, which will bring a nutty, toasty flavor to the sauce. When liquid is added to the roux and everything comes to a boil, the flour-fat mixture will thicken the liquid, making a velvety sauce.

A slurry is a combination of starch (usually cornstarch, flour, potato starch or arrowroot) and cold water, which is mixed together and added to a soup or sauce to thicken it. Why cold water? If the starch is added directly to hot liquid, the starch granules cannot disperse easily and clumps form.  When the slurry is added to the soup or sauce, the liquid must be brought up to a simmer to ensure the starch reaches its full thickening potential before more is added. Add a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Cornstarch slurries are used a lot in Asian dishes.

Now, let’s move on to the mothers of all sauces. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Each type of cuisine has its foundations, but these are, for the most part, widely accepted as mother sauces and what every culinary student is expected to memorize.

Béchamel (bay-shah-mel)
Make a roux. Add milk gradually, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Some will argue that you must use white pepper to keep the sauce white, but I actually prefer the flavor of black pepper in my white sauce. A béchamel is a base for many sauces, including the mornay and cheddar sauces, which are used to make macaroni and cheese. I use a béchamel when I make scalloped potatoes.

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Espagnole (ehs-pah-nyol)
Start with a browned mirepoix. Add a brown roux, tomato paste, beef or veal stock, and a bouquet garni, which is a tied bundle of herbs, usually thyme, bay leaf, and sage, but could also include others. This sauce is sometimes used as the foundation for boeuf bourguinon and demi-glace.

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Hollandaise (hol-uhn-dayz)
Emulsify white wine, egg yolks, and butter in a double boiler. Add lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. This is a very delicate sauce because the emulsion can easily break. A rich hollandaise is usually used as a dipping sauce for asparagus or a finishing sauce for dishes like eggs Benedict.

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Tomato (toe-mah-toe)
Start with a soffritto. Add tomatoes and tomato puree. Simmer for 45 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down into a thick sauce (you could also thicken this with a roux). Add basil, salt, and pepper.

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Velouté (veh-loo-tay )
This may or may not start with a white mirepoix. Make a pale or blonde roux. Add a veal, chicken, or fish stock. It is usually served over fish or poultry that has been delicately cooked, like poaching or steaming.

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These sauces are full of flavor and enhance whatever they’re served with. While some are used more than others, they are all versatile and provide solid building blocks for many other sauces. After all, they are all Mother Sauces and we need to respect our mothers.

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Chipotle Chili

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Chilis are great because they are easy to make and hard to mess up. You can easily adjust the spice level to your liking or just add a dollop of sour cream and you’re good to go. Chili is solid camping food. Pair it with chips and/or a cornbread and you have a great meal.

The chipotle chili and adobo sauce in this chili brings a nice mellow heat, strong enough to taste and warm your belly, but not so hot that it lights your nose hairs on fire.

It has three kinds of beans, giving each bite a slightly different flavor. However, if you’re partial to a particular bean, you could use all the same beans and this chili would still taste great.

Start to finish, this takes about 90 minutes to get this chili on the table, which means plenty of time to make a cornbread to go with it.

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Equipment
6 quart (12-inch) Dutch oven or pot

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the jar of chipotles
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Prep
Heat the oil in large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the ground beef; raise the heat and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano and salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Season to taste, with salt and pepper.

Serves 8 (1 1/4 cup servings)

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The Root of All Cooking

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The flavors of various cuisines have a lot to do with how they start. Called aromatics, they are combinations of vegetables and herbs (and sometimes even meats) that are heated in some fat at the beginning of a dish. The heated fat helps these ingredients release addictive aromas and impart deep flavors into the dish that’s being cooked. These culinary foundations help define what makes a French dish French or an Indian dish Indian. While some of these are more exact with specific proportions, others are more loosey goosey. However, none of these are carved in stone and will vary depending on the dish. Here are some of the most common sets.

Cajun Holy Trinity: Sauté 3 parts onion, 2 parts celery and 1 part green bell pepper in butter and olive oil. Supplement with garlic, parsley, shallots, and/or paprika.

Chinese: Sauté garlic, scallions, and ginger in cooking oil. Supplement chilies, shallots, chives, cilantro, Chinese five spice, and/or star anise.

French Mirepoix: Sauté two parts onion, one part each celery and carrot in butter. This can be supplemented with parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and/or herbs de Provence. A variation, called a white mirepoix, replace the carrots with parsnips.

German Suppengrün: Sauté one part each leeks, carrots and celery. Supplement with parsley, thyme, celery leaves, rutabaga, parsley root and onions.

Indian: Sauté onions, garlic, chilies, and ginger in ghee. Supplement with tomatoes, cardamom, cumin, curry, cloves, fenugreek, garam masala, and/or turmeric.

Italian Soffritto: Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil. Supplement with fennel, bay leaves, wine, parsley, sage, prosciutto, and/or pancetta.

Latin Sofrito: Sauté garlic, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes in olive oil. Supplement with chilies, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, paprika, cilantro, bacon, chorizo, ham, wine, and/or vinegars.

Middle Eastern: Sauté garlic, onions, tomatoes, scallions, and raisins in cooking oil and clarified butter. Supplement with ginger, saffron, turmeric, and/or cinnamon.

Polish Włoszczyzna: Sauté leeks, carrots, celery root, and parsley root. Supplement with carrots, parsnips or parsley root, celeriac, and savoy or white cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery leaves and flat-leaf parsley.

Thai Curry Pastes: Sauté shallots, garlic, and chilies in cooking oil and coconut milk. Supplement with galangal, kaffir lime, and/or lemongrass.

These ingredients provide strong foundations and signature flavors for many of the world’s dishes. No matter what you’re making, it’s good to start with a solid base on which to build a great dish.

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Mozzarella Stuffed Pizza Bombs

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These are so good. When we made these for the first time, they disappeared in about 5 minutes. They are best hot out of the oven while the cheese is still gooey. I’m not sure how they taste cold or reheated because they never last that long. Make sure you serve them with warm marinara sauce. They are a hit all by themselves, but dipping them in warm marinara knocks them out of the park!

These would make a great pre-dinner appetizer or as a side dish or as part of an evening cracker barrel. If you’re making these for an evening cracker barrel and want easy clean up, you could foil line your Dutch oven, but be sure to liberally grease the foil.

If you made enough of these, they could even be a main dish. To make them even more pizza-like you could wrap the mozzarella in a slice of pepperoni or Canadian bacon before wrapping them in the pizza dough. I just might have to try that.

They are a bit messy to make. Your hands end up covered in the butter-garlic mixture. I would have some hot soapy water standing by or use disposable food serving gloves.

You can make these using fresh oregano and garlic cloves or you can use dried minced garlic and dried oregano. I use dried oregano and dried, minced garlic and hand mix it.

I make a single batch in my 10-inch Dutch oven in camp or in my cast-iron skillet at home (it’s about the same size). I have not tried larger batches yet, but I imagine that if you doubled it, you could squeeze them into a 12-inch Dutch oven. They’d be cozy but it’s okay if they touch. If you do and it works, let me know.

I wonder how many I could squeeze into my 16-inch Dutch oven?! Hmmmm….

Equipment
10-inch Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet.

Ingredients
8 cloves of garlic, fresh, or 2 teaspoons dried, minced
1 tablespoon oregano, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
9 ounces of pizza dough or 1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 ounces of mozzarella, cut into ¾-inch cubes, or 8 mozzarella sticks, quartered
Extra olive oil and butter for greasing the Dutch oven or skillet
Marinara sauce for dipping, warmed

At home in a food processor, combine garlic cloves, oregano, melted butter, olive oil, and salt until well mixed. Load into a container for transport to camp in the cooler. You could do this in camp without the food processor by just mincing the garlic and herbs by hand or using dried, minced garlic and dried oregano.

In camp, using a mixture of olive oil and butter, liberally grease a Dutch oven (if making these at home, you could use a cast-iron skillet).

On a flat, floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 9-by-9-inch square that’s a ¼ inch thick. Brush with the melted garlic-butter mixture and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equal-sized squares. Place one piece of mozzarella or ½ of a stick (2 quartered pieces) into the middle of each piece of dough. Wrap the mozzarella up in the dough and seal the edges completely. In the Dutch oven or skillet, arrange all the balls, seam side down, so they’re touching. Brush each dough ball thoroughly with the garlic-butter mixture.

Bake in a 375°F oven, using 16 coals on the lid and 7 underneath, for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up. Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Serves about 5 as an appetizer, 3-4 as a main dish (because we can’t eat just 3 or 4)

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Onions Are Our Friends

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Last summer, in a post titled, “Baby Steps, Baby Bites,” I blogged about how I taught myself to like onions. As I’ve gotten to know my new friend the onion, I’ve learned that it is not a one-size fits all. There are many varieties of onion and each one brings something different to the party. Some are sharp and some are sweet. Some are best when cooked while others are best eaten raw. They all bring a ton of flavor and are loaded with health benefits. Here are a few reasons to eat more onions.

For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections.

Onions contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar.

Raw onion lowers the production of bad cholesterol (LDL), keeping your heart healthy.

Onions have been studied extensively in relation to cancer. Their beneficial and preventative effects are likely due in part to their rich organic sulfur compounds. How these compounds inhibit cancer is unknown, but possible hypotheses include the inhibition of tumor growth and genetic mutation.

Onions are also a source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C that helps combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. In addition, adequate intake of vitamin C is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.

Folate, found in onions, may help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but also sleep and appetite as well.

Now that we know some of the health benefits of onions, how do we choose the right one for the dish?

 

Shallots

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A shallot looks like a small, elongated onion with a copper, reddish, or gray skin. When peeled, shallots separate into cloves like garlic. Shallots have a more delicate garlic-like flavor. They are sweet with a little spiciness, and great for an egg dish, vinaigrette, or as a garnish.

 

Scallions aka Green Onions

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Scallions and green onions are actually the same thing. They are either harvested very young from the regular bulb-forming onions we are familiar with, or they can come from other varieties that actually never form bulbs. Scallions are long, with a white stem end that does not bulge out. They have a mild bite that is not as intense as regular onions (the white parts contain the most intense flavor). They can be used raw or cooked, and while some cooks discard the darker green tops, the whole thing can be eaten, and is often used in Asian cooking.

 

Spring Onions

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Spring onions look similar to scallions, but have small onion bulbs at the base. These onions come from the varieties that produce bulbs and are basically more mature versions of scallions. They are planted as seedlings in the late fall and then harvested the next spring, thus the word “spring” in the name. Spring onions are sweeter and mellower than regular onions, but the greens are more intense in flavor than scallions. The bulbs can be red or white, depending on the variety, and while they can be used in much the same way as regular bulb onions, they are great grilled or roasted whole.

 

White Onions

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White Onions are the crunchiest. They have high water content, the sharpest flavor, and are mostly used in Mexican cooking. Use for salsas, chutneys and stir fries.

 

Red Onions

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Red onions have a mild flavor and are best eaten raw. They are crisp and add color. Use for guacamole, salsa, pickling, salads, and on burgers and in sandwiches.

 

Sweet Onions

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The most well known sweet onions are Vidalia and Walla Walla (pictured). They are sweet and mild yet still deliver great onion flavor. They have thick layers, which are best for frying. Use for onion rings, gratins, and roasting.

 

Yellow Onions

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Yellow Onions are full-flavored and are the best all-around cooking onion. They are sharp and spicy, which mellows when cooked. They caramelize well because of their high sugar content. Use for meat roasts, braised meat dishes, sauces, soups, and stews.

 

Working with Onions

According to the National Onion Association, to reduce tearing when cutting onions, first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact. (The root end has the highest concentration of sulphuric compounds that make your eyes tear.) You can also rub canola or olive oil on your knives before cutting onions to prevent your eyes from tearing.

 

How to Cut an Onion

Cut in half through the stem and root. Cut off the stem end, but leave the root intact. It holds the rings of the onion together.

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When slicing, start at the stem end (that’s the end you cut off), cut across the rings, working toward the root end.

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When dicing, make slices perpendicular to the board from root end to stem end, cutting from just before the root but not through. Keep the root intact.

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Then make slices parallel to the board from stem end to root end, cutting to just before the root but not through. Keep the root intact.

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Then slice across the rings.

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Categories: Under the Lid | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Ham & Swiss Croissant Sandwiches

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Recently, I had an epiphany. I know, it happens sometimes. I was planning a menu for a weekend I knew would be cold and most likely rainy. For lunch, I wanted to serve a steaming bowl of soup and a hot sandwich, the perfect combo on a cold, rainy day.

I was inspired by my friend Chris over at CJ’s Kitchen who likes to foil wrap sandwiches and warm them in the oven, and they come out warm, gooey, and yummy. But how to do that in camp? And then, in a moment of brilliance, it occurred to me that I could use my 16-inch Dutch oven simply as a warming oven. Sounds simple enough but it was a paradigm shift for my brain, which is usually focused on actually cooking in my Dutch ovens.

For my hot sandwich, I decided to go with a classic ham and Swiss. I have to confess here that I have never been a Swiss cheese fan, but I knew this was a classic pairing so I decided to give it a try and I love it. The Swiss cheese pairs perfectly with the ham. The Dijon, honey, and brown sugar condiment is sweet and tangy. The croissants were soft and buttery. When warmed, the Swiss cheese became soft and gooey.

This is a simple sandwich to make. I premixed my condiment at home and loaded it into a container for the ride to camp. The croissants I found at the store were a little small, somewhere between a slider and a full size croissant, so I picked up enough for everyone to have two if they wanted. I was feeding hungry Scoutmasters after all.

In camp, assembly took a little bit of time, but I had some help from a fellow Scoutmaster so it went pretty fast. We individually wrapped them in foil and loaded them into the preheated 350°F Dutch oven. After 15 minutes, the sandwiches were warmed through and the cheese had melted.

Served with a hot bowl of soup, it was the perfect lunch on a cold, rainy day. The sandwiches were so good, most everyone came back for a second. These were a smash hit and I will definitely do this again.

On a related note, I also used my 16-inch Dutch oven that morning to hot hold pancakes and it worked perfectly. As we pulled the pancakes off the griddle, we loaded them into the warm oven and they were all toasty warm when it came time to eat. I now have a new use for my 16-inch as a warmer and a hot holder!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 croissants split
8 slices Swiss cheese
1 pound deli ham (any flavor you like)

Prep
At home before you go or in camp, mix the mustard, honey and brown sugar together. Spread the honey mustard mixture on each side of the four split croissants. Place a slice of Swiss on each half of the croissants. Top the bottom half of each croissant with ham. Place the halves back together and wrap in foil. If you are assembling these at home before you go, place in a cooler for the ride to camp.

When it’s time to heat them, pile them into a Dutch oven and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, using the number of coals appropriate for the size of your Dutch oven.

Serves 4

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Categories: Dutch Oven, Main Dishes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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