Cranberries are Crazy Good for You

cranberry-02-690pxI knew cranberries were good for you, but I didn’t realize they were such a super food. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I grew up on a cranberry farm in Western Washington, which is where I learned to love these tart tiny fruits. I thought I knew everything about them, like how they are packed with vitamin C and are good for your kidneys and your urinary tract. But I realize now that I was only scratching the surface.

A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium, another well-known super food. (Both berries also belong to the food family called Ericaceae, also known as the heath or heather family.) Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs. That’s how we grew them on the Washington coast.

While cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections, recent studies suggest that they may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.

One way they do all this is their ability to fight germs. Bacteria doesn’t stand a chance against cranberries. Several studies show that cranberries can help ward off urinary tract infections (in some cases, even those caused by strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Cranberries also seem to thwart h. pylori (associated with stomach ulcers) and various gum-disease-causing germs.

Antioxidants in cranberries like oligomeric proanthocyanidins, peonidin, anthocyanidin flavonoids, quercetin and cyaniding help prevent cardiovascular diseases by fighting bad cholesterol plaque forming in the blood vessels and the heart.

Cranberries also contain high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins that can protect us against cancer, neurological diseases and aging, inflammatory diseases, bacterial infections and diabetes.

Cranberries are crammed with vitamin C. One cup of cranberry juice can deliver up to 100% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Just make sure to look for a label that says, “100% juice.”

There is evidence that the vitamin C found in cranberries, along with other antioxidants, can help hypertension. In one study, people who drank 2 glasses of low-sugar cranberry juice daily saw a significant drop in their blood pressure.

Cranberries are loaded with water-soluble fiber (the kind that keeps you feeling full). One cup (cooked or raw) contains about 5g fiber and 50 calories, while 1/2 cup of dried has 3.5g and 187 calories.

So, now that you know just how good for you they are, how do you consume more of them?

Juice ‘em. Drink straight or mix with other fruit juices or other beverages. Cranberry juice is also good spiked. Take advantage of cranberries’ high acid content (they have a pH range of 2.3 to 2.5) and use fresh juice from the berries in place of vinegar in salad dressings and marinades.

Try ‘em dried. Toss 1 to 2 tablespoons into oatmeal, salads, couscous, or quinoa. Look for dried berries that are free of preservatives, since they can degrade the berries’ antioxidants. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how they make an amazing addition to any trail mix or just mix dried cranberries with lightly roasted and salted nuts for a delicious snack.

Cook ‘em. Cranberry relish really perks up sandwiches. The berries also add a bright accent to baked goods, wild rice, and meat dishes, especially pork and turkey. We pair them with Swedish meatballs in place of their cousin, the lingonberry. And, cranberries pair amazingly with white chocolate! Just sayin’….

Eat ‘em fresh. During the fall harvest season, we used to pluck them straight off the vine and munch on them while we worked. To balance their extreme tartness, combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries.

For an easy-to-make salad that will immediately become a holiday favorite, place 2 cups fresh berries in your blender or food processor along with 1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, a quartered skinned orange, a sweet apple, and a handful or two of walnuts or pecans. Blend till well mixed but still chunky. Transfer to a large bowl.

A fruit with a short season, fresh cranberries are harvested between Labor Day and Halloween and appear in markets from October through December. Choose berries that have a bright red color, and that are plump and firm to the touch. Cranberries with a deeper red color contain more pigmented antioxidants. Be careful not to use any discolored, bruised or mushy cranberries as they can develop mold and they can transfer it to other berries. Rinse them well before using.

Fresh cranberries will keep for up to 2 months, or cooked for about a month. In both cases, seal tight and refrigerate. They also freeze really well. Once frozen, cranberries may be kept for several years. To freeze, spread fresh cranberries out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. In a couple of hours, the fully frozen berries will be ready to transfer to a freezer bag or a container. Don’t forget to date the bag or container before returning to the freezer.

Now that you know how crazy good for you cranberries can be, don’t just limit them to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Eat them all year long.

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What’s on Your List?!


Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is only a week away and, before we know it, it will be Christmas. What’s on your Santa List and have you been naughty or nice this year?!

When crafting my annual letter to Santa, I always try to include something that will improve my camping and/or outdoor cooking experience. Because I camp nearly every other weekend three seasons a year, I want to be as comfortable as possible. I also spend a lot of time in my camp kitchen and I want to make sure it’s in the best shape possible for my budget.

Now is a great time to assess your camping and camp cooking supplies and needs. Do you have tents, cots, or sleeping bags that are getting old and need to be replaced? Would you like to add a new Dutch oven to the mix? How’s your camp stove? Does it need to be replaced or upgraded? Do you need any new toys? Take stock of what you got and what you need. The holidays are when we tend to give ourselves permission to make those larger purchases. Now is a great time to up your camping and outdoor cooking game.

Recently, I’ve noticed that my back has begun to complain while bending and tending to my Dutch ovens that are usually sitting on the ground so I’m thinking of adding a Dutch oven table to my list this year.

Dutch oven tables are made of sturdy, durable steel and will support the weight of 2-4 Dutch ovens, depending on the size of your ovens. You place your coals directly on the table and then set your ovens on top of the coals. This raises your ovens to a comfortable height. I looked at Lodge, Cabela’s, and Camp Chef. They all offer a three-sided windbreak although height of the windbreak varies. They also feature adjustable legs for level cooking, and they collapse down for easy transport. There are subtle differences in overall dimensions, weight, and price.

I would love to upgrade my little propane camp stove to a large Camp Chef 2 or 3 burner stove. These durable, versatile stoves pack enough power in their 30,000 BTU burners to boil water and cook food lickety split! And, because they belong to Camp Chef’s 14” cooking system, you can get all kinds of accessories to go with them like flat-top griddles, BBQ grill boxes, and even pizza ovens.

It would also be nice to have a larger pop up canopy. When it rains, and it frequently does here in the Northwest, it’s very difficult to get my entire kitchen under the canopy and still have room to maneuver. It would be nice to have a 12×12 or a 15×15.

On the smaller scale, I’d like to have a collapsible dish drying rack to make clean up easier.

I need a new lantern or two for my cook shelter. I love the convenience and safety of a battery-powered lantern, but they just don’t put out the light like a propane-powered lantern, which is a little more delicate and higher maintenance.

I also think it would be fun to have a laser temperature gauge. When I’m teaching youth and talking about managing their heat, it would be nice to be able to actually show them just how hot their griddle or pan is compared to what it should be.

So what about you? Is any of your equipment old, worn out or broken, and need replacing? Are there any upgrades or improvements you can make? Now’s the time to get it on “The List.”

So, assess your camp kitchen and determine what you need to get cooking better or cooking more in the outdoors? And, if you come across anything good, let me know so I can get it added to my list!

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Vegetarian Three-Bean Chili


A couple weeks ago, my daughter and I taught outdoor cooking to some amazing Girl Scout adult volunteers and teens. This vegetarian three-bean chili is one of the things we made. I promised them I would get it posted to the blog and here it is! We also made Cookie’s Cornbread and Granny Apple Crisp.


This is a hearty chili that brings some nice welcomed heat on a cold, rainy day. We played it safe and used a mild salsa; however, you could up the heat by using a medium or hot salsa. You could also switch out one of the green bell peppers for some jalapenos or spicier chilies. So, if you like it hot, this chili could be easily modified to a 5-alarm fire chili! And, if it ends up being too hot for some, they can always cool it down with a little sour cream. Serve it with a good cornbread (I highly recommend mine!) and/or a nice salad with some cooling Ranch dressing. And, don’t forget the tortilla chips!

It occurs to me that if you wanted more of a creamier chili, you could also add a can or two of vegetarian refried beans. We may have to try that the next time we make this.

6-quart stock pot or 12-inch Dutch oven

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 large green bell peppers, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
2½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup mild to hot red salsa
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ salt
½ teaspoon pepper
30 oz kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz pinto beans (vegetarian), rinsed and drained
1½ cups corn kernels

In a 6-quart stock pot or 12-inch Dutch oven, heat oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable stock, salsa, and remaining spices. Simmer, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and corn, and cook, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Adjust your seasoning as desired.

At home, you could also make this in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add everything to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 7 on low.

Ladle into bowls and top with green onion, cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Serves about 6.

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KISS – Keep it Simple Sundays


Our camping/scouting weekends typically look something like this: We roll in on a Friday afternoon or Friday night and we set up camp. We try to keep dinner prep pretty easy (30 minutes or less) so we have plenty of time for a campfire. Saturday is filled with activities and our heartier, bigger meals. Dutch ovens tend to get a workout on Saturdays. Sunday, after breakfast, we break down and hit the road for home. Sometimes we try to cram in a few more activities Sunday morning but, for the most part, it’s a break-fast and break-camp kinda morning.

So, for Sunday mornings we like to keep it simple with easy, no mess, no clean up, breakfasts that still fill our bellies without filling the dishpan. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep it simple Sundays.

Instant Oatmeal and Instant Cream o’ Wheat Packets (just add hot water)

Bagels and Cream Cheese (I like to toast my bagel over the campfire)

Muffins, Danish and Donuts (oh my)


Nutty-Os and Granola


Deviled Eggs

If we make a morning campfire, we’ll cook sausages on sticks or wrapped in foil or potatoes wrapped in foil.

If I do make something in the Dutch oven, I try to keep it easy with little to no prep so I’m not dirtying any dishes and I foil line the Dutch oven so there is no clean up there either. Apple Raisin Monkey Bread and Pecan Sticky Bun Bits are always popular. Baked Oatmeal, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Granny Apple Crisp also make great breakfasts.

monkey_bread_apple_raisin_IMG_1279_690pxApple Raisin Monkey Bread

pecan_sticky_bun_bitsPecan Sticky Bun Bits

BakedOatmeal09_IMG_1034_690pxBaked Oatmeal

CoffeeCake07_IMG_1031_690pxBlueberry Coffee Cake

granny_apple_crisp_img_2034_690pxGranny Apple Crisp

There are lots of ways to have a good, filling breakfast without creating a mountain of dishes that need to be washed. It makes it easier to pack up your chuck box clean and dry before heading home.

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Granny Apple Crisp


Last weekend, my daughter and I taught outdoor cooking to an awesome bunch of Girl Scout adult volunteers and teens. This crisp is one of the things we made. I promised them I would get it posted to the blog right away and here it is! We also made Cookie’s Cornbread and Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili. I’ll have the chili posted soon.


I love crisps and this crisp is one of my favorites because it uses tart Granny Smith apples and has a sweet and cinnamony toasted crunchy oat topping. We have made this crisp for a dessert following lunch or dinner and we’ve also made it for breakfast. We justified making it for breakfast because it has apples and oatmeal in it. So if you want to make it for breakfast, tell them, “Cookie said it was okay!”

We like to prep all our dry ingredients at home. You could also prep your apples at home and just add a smidge of lemon juice to the bag to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown, but this will add a bit more tartness to the crisp, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When you get to camp it’s just “some assembly required.” So, as a dessert or as a breakfast item, this crisp is a winner.


12-inch Dutch oven

1 cup +2 tablespoons flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
3 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon all spice
6 tablespoons butter, softened
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

At home, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice in a gallon-size heavy-duty resealable bag for transport to camp in your food tote.

In camp, peel, core and dice the apples. Foil line your Dutch oven and start 25 coals. Apply a thin coating of butter or oil to the foil.

Add butter to the dry ingredients in the resealable bag. Seal the bag and thoroughly mush ingredients together with hands until you get a nice crumbly texture.

Spread apples evenly in Dutch oven. Spoon butter-flour mixture evenly over the apples.

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

Serves 8

You could also make a double batch in a 16-inch Dutch oven. Adjust coals as necessary.

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Dynamics of a Dump Cake


Dump cakes are a classic Scouting Dutch oven dessert; however, most of the dump cakes I have encountered over the years have not been very successful. The cake mix doesn’t cook properly and there are pockets of dry powder and ugh! No, thank you.

However, back in June, I was prepping for a week at the Chisholm Trail High Adventure Camp in Texas with the older scouts of my son’s Boy Scout troop. At the end of the week, my scouts expected the Scoutmaster and I to enter the dump cake cookoff. I didn’t want to let them down so I spent some time wrapping my brain around the dump cake concept and I discovered a few things.

While it is, in fact, called a “dump” cake, I don’t believe that you literally just dump the ingredients in the Dutch oven. I believe a wee bit of mixing is still needed for a successful dump cake.

When making a dump cake, I believe there are 2 outcomes you are going for. One is more of a cobbler style with fruit on the bottom and cake on the top. The other is more of a crisp style with fruit on the bottom and a crunchy crumb mixture on top.

For the cobbler style dump cake, add your fruit to the bottom of the Dutch oven. In a bowl, mix your cake mix with whatever you are going to use for the liquid. You could follow the instructions on the box and use eggs, oil, milk or water or you can use a can of soda pop for your liquid. The soda pop is a fun way to introduce some additional flavor and it adds a weird element that kids find exciting. Pour your cake and soda mixture carefully over the fruit and bake.

For the crisp style dump cake, add your fruit to the bottom of the Dutch oven. In a bowl, using a pastry cutter, 2 forks, or your fingers, cut butter into the cake mix until it resembles course crumbs. You could also stir in some chopped nuts for additional crunch. Sprinkle your crumb mixture over the fruit and bake.

Making your dump cakes this way is going to be far more successful and provide a dessert that you actually want to eat.

So what did we end up making for the Dump Cake Cookoff at High Adventure Camp in Texas? Well, we had one can of Sprite that we’d purchased in advance at the Trading Post. We had to guard it for days to make sure it didn’t get drank! All we had for a measuring cup was a large paper cup. The pie fillings were in the big #10 cans and the cake mixes were likewise in bulk in 10lb bags, so the Scoutmaster and I worked together and we totally winged it.

I chose peach pie filling and he chose the yellow cake mix. We thought those would go nicely with each other and would be different from all the chocolate dumps cakes we were watching being made. While I spooned the peach pie filling into the bottom of the Dutch oven, he mixed the cake mix with the Sprite. I dusted the top of the peaches with our secret ingredient we’d packed from home, aka, cinnamon. We carefully poured the cake mix over the peaches and took the Dutch oven to the campfire to bake. Because we were using coals from the fire, we had to eyeball it, but I think we did pretty good. We were done in the allotted time with only a small burnt spot on top, which I scraped off before we served.

Unfortunately, the judges chose chocolate dump cakes as the winners; however, all the scouts who tasted our dump cake said it should have won, so we feel we won the popular vote!

Soon, I’ll post the Dump Cake I made at Summer Camp this summer. And, yes, it was chocolate!

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Camp Coffee Connoisseur


September 29 is National Coffee Day!

When you’re camping, there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. It’s one of the top reasons why campers crawl out of their sleeping bags in the morning. It ranks right up there with the warmth of a crackling campfire and the smell of bacon frying!

For coffee lovers, enjoying a good cup of coffee can make or break a weekend camping trip. However, between the single cup brewers for home and office, and having a Starbucks on every corner, many people don’t “make” coffee anymore. Then, when they go camping, and those luxuries are not available, they either go without (and we have to put up with their grumpiness) or they “settle” for instant coffee or a coffee tea bag.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to settle. You can brew a great cup of java in your camp kitchen. Here’s how to do it.

For equipment, you’ll need a camp stove and a coffee percolator. For the percolator, you’ll want one with a clear-glass percolator knob so you can see the coffee as it brews. Being able to see the coffee will help you decide when it is done. Your percolator will also include a metal basket with a spreader plate that sits on a metal straw (I’m not sure if it has an official name).

The basket for the grounds is not really a filter and you may occasionally get a few grounds in your coffee, but that doesn’t bother me. But if you’re bugged about those things, you could use separate disc-style filters or strain your coffee when you pour it.

How the percolator works is by forcing water up through the straw where it spurts out over the spreader plate and seeps through the coffee grounds. (see diagram)

Coffee_Percolator_Cutaway_DiagramNow for the ingredients. You’ll want to start with good beans, medium ground. Either purchase your favorite coffee beans already ground or buy them whole and grind them yourself at home. Either way, store the ground coffee in an airtight container and bring more than you expect to consume because coffee always tastes better in the great outdoors.

Fill the coffee pot with water. It is important that the water level is below the bottom of the basket.

Before loading your coffee into the basket, wet the inside of the basket to help prevent grounds from going through the holes. Scoop the coffee into the basket (do not pack it in), set the plate on the basket, and insert the entire assembly into the coffee pot. Put the lid on the coffee pot and set it to flame.

Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down. Brewed coffee left on high heat for too long will acquire a bitter taste. Keep an eye on the coffee bubbling up into the clear-glass percolator knob. Coffee is ready when it’s a nice rich brown to your liking.


My red coffee pot (pictured below) holds 48 ounces or 6 cups of water (pot filled to the bottom of the bottom hole of the pour spout). To the basket, I add ¾ cup coffee grounds (6 scoops). This makes 8 (6 ounce) cups.


And don’t forget to pack the coffee extras like sugar and creamer for those of us who prefer our coffee on the blonder side. I love all the flavored creamers available today. My favorite is Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel by International Delight. Last summer, on our 50-mile bike trip, a friend of mine brought a chocolate chip cookie dough flavored creamer and it was yummy. If you don’t want to keep it refrigerated, there are many tasty flavored coffee creamers in powdered form.

In addition to coffee fixin’s, remember to pack a good supply of hot chocolate, apple cider, tang, and a variety of teas for the non-coffee drinkers. For a great Russian tea recipe, see my blog post “Russian Tea is a Tangy Beverage Hot or Cold.”

Now you have a reason to crawl out of that sleeping bag in the morning. And the rule in camp is: First one up starts the coffee.

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Autumn Has Arrived

autumn_river_690pxFall tends to be the harbinger of change. Just as the leaves on the trees give up their green and begin to take on the vibrant reds and golds of autumn, the dog days of summer seem to slip away as school busses begin to roll down the streets.

Here in the northwest, the weather is changing, turning cold with more rain, and our meal planning is changing as well, turning to more comfort foods. We start thinking about stews and hearty soups, pasta dishes, and yummy casseroles. Recipes like meatloaf and scalloped potatoes get pulled out, chicken mini pies, macaroni and cheese, and beef stroganoff to name just a few.

Fall is also when we’re taking our last few camping and hunting trips and we’re switching from our lighter, summer weight sleeping bags to our colder, heavier sleeping bags or adding a wool or fleece blanket. On the really cold nights in October and November, we fill water bottles with hot water and toss them in the foot of our sleeping bags to keep our toes warm at night.

With the weather turning stormier, we also make sure we are prepared for winter emergencies. September is National Preparedness Month so we take some time now to make sure we’re prepared in the event of an emergency. We make sure all our propane tanks are full and we have a good supply of charcoal for cooking when the power goes out. We top off candle supplies and battery supplies for flashlights. We make sure our pantry and freezer is well stocked. If getting to grocery stores is difficult or the grocery stores are closed because they have no power, we can live out of our pantry and freezer for many days. We also check our stored water supplies so we have enough for drinking and cooking.

When the power goes out, it’s important to be able to cook warm meals and between my propane stove and my Dutch ovens I can do that. I do my cooking out in the garage or on my covered front porch. Remember! Never operate your propane stove or use charcoal inside your home or anyplace that isn’t well ventilated as it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Be prepared and be safe!

So, are you prepared for what Ol’ Man Winter throws at you?

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Chicken Mini Pies

Chicken_Mini_Pies_IMG_1977_690pxThis has to be one of our family’s top 10 favorite things to eat. We don’t make them very often because they are a bit labor intensive, but they are well worth the effort. In fact, they taste so yummy that we nearly devour them as soon as they come out of the oven, piping hot and scalding our mouths in the process. But we just can’t stop ourselves. They are that yummy.

The cream cheese chicken mixture is well seasoned, but not spicy. It goes so well with the paprika seasoned pie crust. It’s comfort food you can hold in your hand.

To make assembly in camp easier, both the pie crust and the filling could be made ahead of time at home and ride to camp in a cooler. Here are a few more tricks we’ve learned along the way.

We chop all the vegetables really fine so every pie gets a nice variety of goodies. Dicing the veggies extra small also makes sure the filling is not too lumpy, which makes assembling the pies harder. When making the filling, we add the celery at the very last so it’s still a little crisp, but don’t forget to add it (like I’ve never done that before).

For the poultry seasoning, we prefer Johnny’s but you could also use Lawry’s or whatever poultry seasoning happens to be your favorite.

We make our own pie dough from scratch in 2 batches. I’ve tried to make one big batch, but it’s too hard to handle. For a flakier pie crust, make sure to refrigerate the dough before rolling out. So, making ahead actually works better for the pie crust.

If you choose to use store-bought pie dough, just give it a light, even, dusting of paprika as you roll it out. Use about a teaspoon of paprika and evenly distribute across your pie crusts. The pies won’t taste the same without the paprika pie dough. And you’ll need the equivalent of about 4-5 pie crusts.

To cut out the pastry rounds, we use Pampered Chef’s 4-inch round cut-n-seal or you can use a 4-inch biscuit cutter and then crimp the edges with a fork. I can bake 4 at a time in a 12-inch Dutch oven.


I can bake 7 at a time in my 16-inch Dutch oven.

Chicken_Mini_Pies_IMG_1973_690pxI can bake 8 on a 17¼ x 11¼ baking sheet in a box oven (apple box) or a regular home oven.

Chicken_Mini_Pies_IMG_1968_690pxFor instructions on how to make a box oven, see my blog post, “DIY How to Build a Box Oven.”

Any way you bake them, they will disappear as fast as you can make them. Make sure you get one before they are gone!

Dutch oven or 17¼ x 11¼ baking sheet, skillet, mixing bowl, pastry cutter, measuring cups and spoons, 4-inch round cut-n-seal or 4-inch biscuit cutter, and a 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop.

Filling Ingredients
¼ cup celery, finely diced
¼ cup onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken, cooked and finely shredded, fresh or 2 13-ounce cans
3 tablespoons chicken broth
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup cream cheese

Pastry Ingredients (make 2 batches)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup cold butter, grated or diced
8-10 tablespoons cold water

Prep Work for the Filling

In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter. Stir in chicken, broth, seasonings, and cream cheese. To the chicken mixture, add the celery and just heat it through.

Prep Work for the Pastry

Sift together flour, salt and paprika. Cut in butter until it resembles small peas. Gradually add water until ball forms. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Roll out pastry to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut rounds.

Assembly of the Meat Pies

Mound 2 tablespoons of filling on half of the rounds you cut (we use a small 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop).

Chicken_Mini_Pies_IMG_1964_690pxMoisten edges with water; place another round on top and seal the edges either with the cut-n-seal or with a fork.

Chicken_Mini_Pies_IMG_1965_690pxPlace in ungreased Dutch oven or on ungreased cooking sheet. Prick tops with a fork. Bake in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For a box oven, you’ll need about 15 coals.

For a 12-inch Dutch oven, you’ll need 27 coals, 9 underneath and 18 on the lid.

For a 16-inch Dutch oven, you’ll use 38 coals, 13 underneath and 25 on the lid.

Makes about 20 pies, which will feed 10 if everyone has 2 pies or 6 if everyone has 3 pies (it’s been known to happen). If there are leftovers, at home, they reheat very nicely in the microwave. In camp, we just wrap them in foil and warm them by the fire.


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Bakin’ Bacon in a Box Oven


Saturday was International Bacon Day! Did you fry some bacon while you were camping? I know, silly question. Of course, you did!

Making bacon in camp can be hard to manage because of all the bacon grease. Your griddle or flat-top grill just gets overrun with it. But did you know you can bake bacon in a box oven? Not only does this manage the grease a little better, but also frees up your griddle or flat-top for other fun, like pancakes, hashbrowns or eggs.

We knew bacon could be baked in the oven at home and we had baked bacon in the big camp kitchens, which is a great way to do it if you’re feeding a bunch of hungry campers; so why wouldn’t it work in a box oven at camp? We decided to try it on one of our Girl Scout campouts and it worked! Here’s how we did it:

We lined a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. The pan must be rimmed or you’re going to have bacon grease everywhere! The parchment paper will help manage the grease. Lay your bacon out on the pan in a single layer. They can touch but not overlap.

Bacon03_IMG_1006_690pxIn a regular oven, you would bake at 375° for 18 to 20 minutes or until it reaches your desired level of crispness. There is no need to flip it. Just let it do its thing. When it’s done, use tongs to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.

In camp, in the box oven, we found we needed a little hotter oven. We bumped it up to 425° using 17 coals. I’d also recommend soup or juice cans to elevate your baking sheet, which are shorter and will place your baking sheet closer to the coals.

Our box oven was an apple box, my favorite. For instructions on how to make a box oven, see my blog post, “DIY Box Oven.” An apple box will accommodate a standard 17¼ x 11¼ baking sheet, which will hold about 10 slices of bacon, depending on the size of your bacon. If you are feeding a crowd, you may want a second box oven or you may need to make a couple of batches. If making multiple batches, you can always wrap the bacon in foil and place it near the fire to keep it warm, although I don’t mind cold bacon. I mean, bacon is bacon, right?

Bacon03_IMG_1008_690pxSo, the next time you camp, try baking bacon in a box oven. You may need to experiment a little to find the temperature and time combination that will give you bacon to your desired doneness, but it’s worth every bake, because you’re making bacon! Don’t be so distracted by the magic in your box oven you forget you can have hashbrowns and eggs going on the griddle, while the bacon is baking.

Get out outside and cook something amazing!

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Categories: Box Oven, Breakfasts, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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