Monthly Archives: December 2013

We’re Nutty for Nutty-Os

nutty_closeupNutty-Os are a holiday tradition in our family started by my sister many years ago. These crunchy, nutty, sweet and salty clusters are easy to make and quickly gobbled up (sometimes while they are still warm).

A few days ago, my friend CJ posted her version on her blog, CJ’s Kitchen, and it reminded me of ours. She toasts hers in a cast iron skillet and adds dried cranberries for a bit of tartness. She takes a little bag with her to work every day for an afternoon snack. It occurred to me that these would make a good camping snack or a no-cook breakfast item.

Today, inspired by CJ, I made a batch and added dried cranberries. We did a 50/50 mix of dried cranberries and dried blueberry cranberries. We love how the cranberries add a bit of tartness to the sweet and salty mix. Here is our recipe:


Cookie Sheet or Jelly Roll Pan


Big Bowl

Rubber Spatula for Stirring


½ cup brown sugar

½ cup dark corn syrup

¼ cup butter or margarine

½ teaspoon salt

6 cups cheerios or honey-nut cheerios (for a little more sweetness)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

½ cup almonds, slivered

1 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Prep Work

Heat oven to 325°F. Brush jelly roll pan with a little butter or margarine. Heat brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in 3 quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheerios and nuts until well coated. You could add the dried cranberries here or after it comes out of the oven. Spread mixture in pan. Bake 15 minutes. Add the cranberries here if you didn’t add them before you baked it and cool 10 minutes, but don’t just let it sit; keep turning it and moving it as it cools. After about 10 minutes, you can let stand about an hour until firm. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes 9 cups.

This would be a great snack mix for in camp or on the trail and would make a good no-cook breakfast item on a morning where you want to keep breakfast simple.

Categories: Recipes, Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

OMG! Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

cheesecake_stuffed_strawberriesMy daughter, who loves cheesecake, made these for her Girl Scout troop on a campout and we decided these are simply to die for.  They are easy to make and delightful to eat! We could have easily just eaten these the entire weekend! We ended up with about 4 dozen stuffed strawberries and they were gone in 60 seconds!



Mixing bowl, sturdy spoon, paring knife, resealable plastic bag.



1 pound large strawberries

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Graham cracker crumbs (you can buy these in a box or smash your own, but you want them really fine)



At home, in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a zip-loc bag and this goes into your cooler for transport to camp.

You could also wash and core the strawberries at home and, likewise, load them into a container or bag for transport to camp. We opted to prep our strawberries in camp because we wanted to give the girls some paring knife experience.

In camp, squeeze your filling into the corner of the zip-loc bag and snip off the corner. Fill the strawberries with cheesecake mixture. Once strawberries are filled, dip the top in graham cracker crumbs.

Then you have to resist eating them all before dinner!

Categories: Desserts, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Want Coal in my Stocking!

charcoal_bucketsCoals are the life’s blood of Dutch oven cooking. Without them, our ovens would sit cold, empty and lifeless. Coals are the source of our heat, the source of our fire, and we love cooking with fire.

The traditional fire source for cooking outdoors was wood coals from the camp fire. I remember watching old cowboys load their Dutch ovens with ingredients then walk over to the fire and shovel out some hot coals and distribute them on top and underneath the Dutch ovens and declare that to be “just about right.” It always amazed me how they could just eyeball it like that.

Whether you’re a rookie cookie or a champion camp chef, charcoal briquettes offer easier and better heat control. In addition, every year, state and national parks place more restrictions on gathering wood and building open fires. All these are good reasons to use charcoal briquettes.

For best results, use quality charcoal but not a pre-treated, fast-start charcoal. Don’t get the cheap stuff. Quality charcoal will burn longer and more consistently, and can make the difference between a great meal and a meal that is burned or undercooked. I prefer Kingsford Original Charcoal.

I keep my charcoal in 5-gallon buckets. It rains a lot here in the Northwest and even when it doesn’t, we tend to get heavy overnight dew so the ground can be really damp sometimes. The 5-gallon buckets are easier than the bags to carry, store, and transport; and I don’t have to worry about bags getting ripped or soaked while camping in wet weather. The bucket also doubles as a stool to sit on.

When starting your charcoal, do not use lighter fluid or any kind of accelerant. It will make your charcoal burn too fast. Use a charcoal chimney and either some wadded up newspaper or a couple of fire starters underneath. I place a couple of my homemade fire starters into the bottom of my chimney before I load in the coals.

After I light the fire starters, it takes no time at all before I have fire blazing up through my coals. My coals are ready in 15-20 minutes.

You can find chimneys in most outdoor stores for around $20. Kingsford makes a collapsible chimney for $25.

For more information on how to make your own fire starters, please see my blog post: “DIY: Making Your Own Fire Starters.”

So, just how naughty do I have to be to get coal in my stocking? And, still get that 16-inch Dutch oven under the tree?

Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Dutch Oven | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

15 Ways to Spice or Spike Your Hot Cocoa

hot-chocolate-chaiToday, December 12, is National Cocoa Day and we couldn’t go camping without a supply of hot cocoa in our food tote. Not much beats it on a crisp spring morning or a chilly fall evening. Even in the middle of July, the kids love to start the day with a cup of hot cocoa. I usually throw a shot of coffee in mine and a little hazelnut creamer or—wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

How do you like to spice up your hot cocoa? Below is a list of all the possibilities we could think of (some for everyone and some just for adults).

Marshmallows have to top the list, but did you know they make flavored marshmallows? We’ve seen chocolate and strawberry flavored, but there may be others.

Melt a Candy Cane or an Andes Mint in your hot cocoa for a minty twist.

Stir in some Caramel sauce.

Add a dash of Cinnamon.

Add some Almond Extract or Vanilla Extract.

Mash up a bit of Banana. It might make for some chunks and floaties but you can spoon those out and eat them!

How about using Coconut Milk?

Melt some Peanut Butter in your hot cocoa.

Add a flavored creamer, like Hazelnut or melt some Nutella in your hot cocoa.

Melt in some White Chocolate or, if you make your hot cocoa from scratch, use white chocolate instead of regular chocolate.

And, hot chocolate isn’t just for kids. For the adults in the crowd, try adding a shot of Amaretto or Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua to your hot cocoa. Makes a perfect nite cap at the evening campfire.

We hope you’ll give some of these a try and have some fun experimenting (says my inner evil mad scientist). And, feel free to mix and match. For example, add coconut milk and almond extract and you’ll have Almond Joy Cocoa! My sister likes to make her cocoa using white chocolate and amaretto.

So did we miss anything? Celebrate National Cocoa Day and please share your own crazy concoctions in the Comments.

Categories: Beverages, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Winner, Winner, Chicken Chili Dinner!

chicken_chiliFor a weekend camp out, typically we roll into camp on Friday night. The vehicles barf out the gear and we commence setting up tents, camp kitchens, rain flies (here in the Northwest that’s standard-operating-procedure), and all our other little creature comforts. Dinner needs to be fast and easy because we don’t want to be eating and cleaning up at midnight. I, for one, will turn into a pumpkin if I stay up that late!

Here is a super easy, hot dinner that you can have on the picnic table in 20 minutes! It serves 4-6 so multiply it up if you’re feeding a larger group.

For home, if you keep these ingredients in your pantry, this can be a quick, simple dinner on those nights everyone is running in different directions and you need a fast, hot, hearty dinner.


One pot and something to stir and serve with.


2 cups (16 oz) of your favorite salsa. You could also use 2 prepared packages of Backpackers Pantry Salsa.

28 oz of canned chicken (draining is optional depending on how much liquid you want). The amount is approximate depending on the size of your cans. You could also poach a couple of chicken breasts at home, shred them, and bring them in your cooler.

1 can (15 oz) pinto or black beans, drained. I like to use black beans because they go so well with chicken and I like the contrasting color they add to the soup. I can’t help myself; I’m a visual person.

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon pepper

salt to taste (I did not use any salt at all and I thought it didn’t need it, but depending on the type of salsa and chicken you use, and your taste buds, you may decide to add some salt.)


Combine salsa, chicken, beans, and spices in a pot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, until ingredients are thoroughly heated through and you’ve shredded all the chicken. Have a taste-test along the way and add more spices to your liking.

Serve with chips, tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole or whatever else you like.

Categories: Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Min., One Pot, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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