Monthly Archives: March 2014

Blueberry French Toast Cobbler

blueberry_french_toastI first made this for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop when they were Brownies and they have loved it ever since. It’s always on our breakfast short list when we’re planning a camping menu. We love it for its sweet blueberry compote on the bottom and crusty French bread toasty top. The girls, who are now in high school, made this last spring at Camp Lyle McLeod during our annual encampment. It was a huge hit. A while back, my sister, Kathy, asked me for this recipe so here it is, Kat!

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven

2 Large mixing bowls

Whisk

Bread knife

Cutting board

Rubber spatula

Large serving spoon

Topping Ingredients

1 baguette of French bread, sliced ¾-inch thick

5 eggs

¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup milk

Filling Ingredients

4½ cups blueberries

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons butter

Powdered sugar

Prep Work

Start 33+ coals in a chimney.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ¼ cup sugar, milk, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk thoroughly. Add the bread slices, turning once to coat evenly. Cover and allow to set until all the egg mixture has been soaked up by the bread. In the time it takes you to get everything else prepped, this should be ready.

Heat the bottom of your Dutch oven and melt the butter. In another large mixing bowl, combine blueberries, ½ cup sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Pour blueberry mixture into Dutch oven. Place soaked bread on top of blueberries. Bake in a 450°F oven, using 22 coals on the top and 11 coals underneath, for 25 minutes or until blueberries are bubbling and bread is golden brown. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the powdered sugar. You don’t need any syrup with this, but you still could, if you wanted to. Serves 6-8.

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Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Convert or Starve!

recipe-box-612wHow do I convert home recipes for camp cooking?

Between a camp stove and a Dutch oven, you can convert just about any home recipe into a camp recipe. Why rely on cookbooks that are strictly for camp cooking? You can convert recipes from any cookbook, including your family cookbook, for cooking in camp.

Camp Stove

Anything you can cook on your stove top at home can be cooked on a camp stove at camp, but managing the flame on a camp stove can be a challenge. Too low and it will take forever to cook. Too high and your food will be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. My son’s common complaint is that our camp stoves don’t come with the fancy numbered dials like our home stoves do.

When adjusting the flame on a camp stove, you need to bend down so that you can see the flame and you need to listen to the hiss of the propane gas. As you gently turn the knob and lower the flame, look and listen. Over time, you’ll get a feel for how low you can go before it extinguishes. It takes a really light touch, which you will develop with patience and practice.

To judge the temperature of an open flame, cautiously hold your hand, palm side down, over the fire at cooking height. Count the number of seconds you can hold that position and you will have an indicator of how hot the fire temperature is:

5 seconds = low

4 seconds = medium

3 seconds = medium-high

2 seconds = high

After a while, you’ll probably just be able to eyeball it.

A common mistake I see with young camp chefs is they plan a menu that requires too many things to be cooked at once. They are so used to cooking on their home stove, which has anywhere from 4 to 6 burners, they forget that their camp stove only has 2 burners and if you’re using your griddle, that consumes both of those burners. So I can’t fry bacon on the griddle and cook oatmeal at the same time.

To minimize the number of pots and burners you need in camp, you can pre-cook in your home kitchen things like sauces, noodles, meats, etc. Just remember to slightly undercook them because they will cook more at camp. When you get to camp, perhaps all you need is one pot to assemble and heat everything.

If you add a Dutch oven or two to your camp kitchen, now you’ve increased your cooking capacity.

Dutch Oven

Anything you can cook in your oven, slow cooker or bread machine at home can be cooked in a Dutch oven.

Dutch ovens are cast iron with tight fitting lids and they make excellent vessels for cooking over the campfire. They can handle high temperatures and long cook times. They are excellent heat conductors and champion slow-cookers.

Campers usually use charcoal briquettes with Dutch ovens to get the best results. For more information on charcoal, please see my blog post: “I Want Coal in my Stocking!

With a few easy modifications, you can turn any home recipe into a camp recipe. The first thing you need to determine is what size and type of Dutch oven will be most suitable for your recipe.

Ovens with shallow sides of about 4” are called “bread” ovens and the deeper sided ones are known as “stew” or “meat” ovens. The 12-inch to 16-inch regular ovens are excellent for baking pies, cakes, breads, biscuits and rolls.

The “deep” ovens can more easily handle turkeys, chickens, hams, and even standing rib roasts!

If you’re converting a casserole, quick bread, or dessert—anything that calls for a specific size of pan—you’ll want to compare the area and get as close a match as you can. This will involve a little math. Let’s convert brownies out of the box. Directions call for an 8 x 8, 9 x 9 or 7 x 11. To determine the area, multiply width by length. I’ll “show” my work below:

8 x 8 = 64

7 x 11 = 77

9 x 9 = 81

I should note here that I’m only interested in the area so I’m only working with 2 dimensions. For our brownies, we need a Dutch oven with an area between 64 and 81. Smaller area means thicker brownies; larger area means thinner brownies. So, how do we figure out the area of a round Dutch oven? I have to admit that I had to go ask my resident math geeks for how to do this, but I’m sure that once I give you the answer, like me, you’ll slap your forehead and say, “Oh, ya, I remember that!” We need to use the math formula πr2 (read: Pi times radius squared).

Pie?! I Like Pie!

Yes! You could bake a pie in a Dutch oven, but I digress. Back to our math homework. To simplify my math, I’m going to use the rounded version of π (Pi), which is 3.14, and multiply it by the radius squared, which is half the diameter of my Dutch oven multiplied by itself. With me so far? I’ll start with my 10-inch Dutch oven and show my work below:

First, I will find the radius of my oven by dividing its diameter – its size – in half. For my 10-inch oven;

10 / 2 = 5

So my radius, r, is 5. Easy!

Next, I need to “square” the radius by multiplying it by itself,

5 x 5 = 25

Now it’s time to multiply my squared radius, (r2 = 25), by π (for which I am using the simplified value of 3.14),

25 x 3.14 = 79

Bazinga! The area of my 10-inch Dutch oven is 79, which is really close to the area of a 7×11 baking dish.

Just for giggles, I used the same formula for my 12-inch Dutch oven and it has an area of 113, which turns out to be a little too big and would make really thin brownies that will likely burn – and nobody likes burnt brownies! So, it looks like my 10-inch Dutch oven is “just right” for the box of brownies. (I should add here that a double batch of brownies would fit just about perfectly in a 14-inch Dutch oven, which has an area of 154.)

If you’re cooking a stew or something that needs volume, the recipe will most likely tell you what size pot (in quarts) you’ll need. The chart below will show you (in quarts) how much a Dutch oven can hold.

do_size_card

Betcha didn’t think you’d be doing so much math, did ya?! Well, a lot of cooking is a science as well as an art.

Cooking Temperature and Time

Check your recipe for baking temperature. Using the chart below, find your required oven temperature and then run down that column to the size Dutch oven you’re using. This is how many coals you’ll need. The first number is your total number of coals. The numbers inside the parenthesis is a breakdown of how many coals go on top and how many coals go underneath. This is a typical distribution of coals. Some recipes may require a slightly different distribution of coals depending on whether you want more heat on the top or the bottom. Make a test batch and adjust your distribution if you need to. If you are cooking in really cold temperatures, you may want to throw a few more coals on, but try to maintain that 2:1 ratio or two-thirds of your coals on top and one-third of your coals underneath.

do_temp_card

Refer to the recipe for the length of cooking time. If you’re camping in high altitude you may want to cook things a smidge longer.

Prep Work

Now you just need to decide how much prep you want to do in camp versus at home or are there ways to simplify the prep for camp? Does the recipe call for noodles or meat that could be pre-cooked at home? Could you cook the noodles in the pot with the rest of the ingredients and just add water or more liquid for the noodles to absorb? Are there dry ingredients that could be pre-mixed at home and sealed in a bag or container? Determine how you want to prep it and then I would recommend prepping it like you would for camp and doing a test batch at home before taking it to camp.

So that’s really all there is to converting your home recipes to camp recipes. Now you can take that favorite family recipe and make it in camp! How cool is that?!

Let’s get outside and get cooking!

Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Dutch Oven | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Fruit Cobbler

summer_fruit_cobblerThe other day, Lisa, one of my Girl Scout leader buddies, asked if I had any good cobbler recipes for the Dutch oven. Lisa is taking her girls camping in a few weeks and wants to make a cobbler but hasn’t had much success. She was looking for a recipe that was “tried and true,” she said.

Right about the same time, we had a couple of nice, sunny days. I was thinking about spring and summer and so I had to make this one. After all, I couldn’t hand the recipe off to Lisa without making it one more time! Right?!

But, as luck would have it, as I was getting ready to make it yesterday afternoon, the rain clouds moved in and the rain began. Undaunted and under cover on my front porch, I forged ahead and I’m so glad I did.

This is a yummy cobbler. The combination of fruit makes each bite a little different and the little bit of cornmeal in the topping brings a nice flavor and texture to the party. My daughter liked it so much she licked her plate! (She told me I had to write that and that I had to use an exclamation point.)

I had frozen peaches, strawberries, and blueberries in the freezer so that is what I used, but you could use any combination of berries to go with the peaches. Just think summer!

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven

1 medium mixing bowl (for mixing the topping)

1 large mixing bowl (for mixing the fruit)

Pastry cutter

Measuring cups and spoons

Mixing/serving spoon

Knife

Cutting board

Ingredients for the Fruit Filling

2-2½ pounds fresh or frozen peaches, cored and sliced

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, cored

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 cup sugar (use a little less if your fruit is really sweet)

¼ cup cornstarch

pinch of salt

Ingredients for the Topping

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup stone ground corn meal (coarse or fine)

2-4 tablespoons sugar (adjust it according the sweetness of your berries)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into small pieces

1½ cups cold milk OR ¼ cup dry milk powder mixed with 1½ cups cold water

Prep Work

This could be done in your home kitchen before you go or in your camp kitchen.

For the filling, mix cornstarch, sugar and salt together. Set aside until ready to assemble cobbler or seal in a bag for transport to camp. If you’re using fresh fruit, you could also prep your fruit.

For the topping, whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Add the cold butter and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your hands. The mixture will look like cornmeal with larger, pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. If making in advance, transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or cover bowl with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to make the batter.

Assembly

In camp, you may want to line your Dutch oven with aluminum foil because this recipe is really sticky. Start 25+ coals.

In a large bowl, mix all of the fruit with the cornstarch, sugar and salt mixture. Set this aside to allow the dry ingredients to dissolve. Give it a stir once in a while.

In a separate bowl or using the bag with your topping mixture, combine the milk and the topping mixture.

Pour the fruit filling into the Dutch oven. Carefully pour your topping mixture over the fruit getting a nice, even coverage. You want the batter to sit on top of the fruit.

Bake at 350°F, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 30-40 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 8-10.

Categories: Desserts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pizza Perfect Pull-Aparts

pizza-pull-apartsYesterday, we were back up at Camp Sheppard teaching Dutch oven cooking to Boy Scouts and their Scoutmasters. It was a whole lot of fun despite the windy and rainy weather.

I’ve often found that even when camping in the worst of conditions, it’s the people you are with who make it a great experience. It also makes a huge difference if you are well prepared.

We made pizza pull-aparts and they were a huge hit. I mean, who doesn’t like pizza?! And, with the weather being so icky, these were warm, tasty, filling, and comforting. I’m not sure I’d ever classify pizza as comfort food but, yesterday, these definitely fell into that category.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it any way you want. If you have more than one Dutch oven, you could make multiple kinds (meat lovers, pepperoni, cheese, vegetarian, etc.). You can use whatever cheese you like. You can use pizza sauce from a jar or make your own. You could even make your own pizza dough in camp or at home and bring it in a cooler. The possibilities are endless, so have fun improvising!

The only thing you need to be mindful of is the amount of sauce you use. If you don’t use enough, the “pizza” will be dry; use too much and it will be sloppy. We used half of a 14-ounce jar of sauce, which was about 7 ounces and I think we could have used a smidge more sauce. My two teenagers said to double the pepperoni and the bacon bits so I adjusted those numbers up. They also said to add more cheese, but if you look at the picture, it looks like it’s drowning in cheese! So, here’s an adjusted version of what we made yesterday. You can add more cheese if you want to.

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven

Mixing bowl

Mixing/serving spoon

Measuring spoons

Knife

Cutting board

Aluminum foil

Ingredients

2 (13.8 oz.) tubes Pillsbury Refrigerated Pizza Dough

1 (5 oz.) bag pepperoni minis

½ pkg. (17 slices) Canadian bacon, halved

1 (5 oz.) bag bacon bits

6 links fully cooked sausage, chopped

½ green pepper, chopped

1 cup pizza sauce

⅛ tsp. garlic powder

⅛ tsp. paprika

½ tsp. Italian seasoning

⅛ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp. basil

1 (2-cup) bag shredded mozzarella cheese

Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

Line Dutch oven with foil and apply a thin coating of non-stick cooking spray. Prep 25+ coals.

Open pizza containers; do not unroll pizza dough. Cut pizza roll into 8 slices and quarter each slice. Roll these bits into balls being careful not to overwork the dough. Cut Canadian bacon pieces in half, chop up your sausage links and dice the green pepper. This could all be done at home and brought to camp in resealable bags or plastic containers.

In a bowl, combine pizza sauce and spices. Add all the other ingredients, except for the cheese, and gently mix (you just want to get all the pizza dough bits coated with sauce and the ingredients mixed). Pour into Dutch oven and arrange the bits into one layer.

Bake at 350°F, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Top with shredded cheese, let melt for five minutes, and serve. Serves 4-6

Categories: Dutch Oven, Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Min., Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blueberry Cinnamon Crumble

blueberry_cinnamon_crumbleThese are so yummy. They are warm, cinnamony, gooey, sticky, and sweet, and the pecans add flavor and crunch! I love blueberries, but pretty much any kind of fruit pie filling would go well in this (canned or homemade). The next time I make this, I’m thinking of using apple or peach pie filling. You could also use walnuts, almonds or some other kind of nut in place of the pecans. I would choose a nut that compliments whatever fruit you’re using.

In addition, this recipe could be made as a breakfast item or as a dessert.

We made this up at Camp Sheppard in the snow when we went up to teach more Dutch oven cooking. There was about a foot of snow on the ground. It was cold and we had a hard time keeping a fire going in the Scout Craft area because the wood was damp, but overall it wasn’t too bad and we had a great time. Camp staff, as usual, rocked our day.

scout_craft

This recipe was perfect for a cold, snowy day. It was warm and tasty, easy to assemble, with a short cook time. I was a little nervous about how much the snow would be a factor. When cooking with charcoal, the coldness of the snow is not so much the issue as the wetness of the snow. We erected a shelter over the cook area and I’m glad we did because it snowed all day. Underneath our shelter, our charcoal stayed dry and performed admirably. To compensate for the colder temperatures, we added a few extra coals to the top and the bottom of the Dutch oven.

oven_in_snowSo, here’s how we made them:

Equipment List

12-inch Dutch oven

25+ charcoal briquettes

1 chimney

1 cutting board

1 large serving spoon

1 mixing bowl

Knife

Fork or pastry cutter

Heavy-duty extra-wide aluminum foil

Ingredients

2 (12.4 oz.) refrigerated cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese icing

1 (21 oz.) can blueberry pie filling

¼ cup (½ of a standard stick) butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup pecans, chopped

Directions

Line Dutch oven with foil. Prep 25+ coals.

Arrange the cinnamon rolls in the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Spread the pie filling over and in between the rolls.

In a small bowl, combine butter, flour, brown sugar and pecans. Sprinkle mixture over pie filling.

Bake at 350°F, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. (We added extra coals to compensate for the cold.)

Remove from heat and, while still warm, drizzle on the cream cheese icing found in the refrigerated roll containers.

Serves 8-16 (1-2 rolls per person)

Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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