Monthly Archives: April 2014

Cookie’s 4 Bean Chili Con Carne

4-bean_chili_600x600This is one of those recipes that includes everything but the kitchen sink. It’s a recipe of my own creation. I started with Granny’s old-fashioned bean bake and, 20 years later, it now it looks nothing like the original recipe, but I think Granny would be proud. I love all the flavors. I could eat this all day and there have been days where I did just that because after an hour or two in the slow cooker, I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to dive in.

I’ve made this at Boy Scout camp and it has gotten rave reviews from scouts and Scoutmasters. It even took 1st place in a Dutch oven chili cook-off! I usually serve this with my world-famous cornbread; it’s a killer combination. For my killer cornbread recipe, see my blog post “Cookie’s Cornbread.”



12-inch deep Dutch oven

Stirring spoon


Can opener


Cutting board

Measuring spoons and cups



8 slices bacon cooked & diced

2 lbs ground beef, browned

1 diced onion

1 diced red pepper

1 (4 oz.) can diced jalapeños

2 (15 oz.) cans pork and beans with the fat chunks removed

1 (15 oz.) can butter beans, not drained

1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, not drained

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, not drained

1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies

3/4 cup brown sugar

1-4 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons mustard

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon salt



Cook the bacon and ground beef (this could be done in camp or at home before you leave; if you do this in camp, have a plan for disposing of the bacon grease). Sauté the onion and red pepper. Add everything else to the pot. I pre-mix my sauce and spices and bring them to camp in a container in my cooler. I bring extra chili powder so I can season to taste in camp.

On a stove, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. In a 12-inch deep Dutch oven, bake 1 hour, using 21 coals on the lid and 11 coals under the oven. In a slow cooker, cook 8 hours on low, but I strongly discourage this one because you have to smell it all day and it will drive you mad. Serves 16-20.

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

Think Inside the Box Part 3-Your Camp Refrigerator

1008p160-large-cooler-lCoolers serve as your camp kitchen refrigerator, but for the coolers to do their job they can’t be overloaded. They need to have enough ice in them to maintain foods at 40°F or below; otherwise, bacteria starts to grow. Keep your coolers in the shade to help them keep their cool.

Coolers are one place where you want to spend the money and opt for the highest quality you can afford. Hard-shell coolers are best. While soft-sided coolers may be fine for short day trips, hard-shell coolers will insulate far better and protect foods from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle.

When packing your coolers, be sure to isolate meat packages in plastic bags to prevent contaminating other foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Freeze any fresh poultry or meat that will not be used within two days. Not only will this keep meats from spoiling, but they are now working as ice to help keep your cooler cold. If you’re packing in water for drinking and cooking, freeze some of the bottles and use them in your coolers as ice.

If you are bringing eggs to camp and you don’t need them whole for frying, instead of trying to transport fragile eggs, you could just bring a carton of egg beaters. Or, at home, you could crack your eggs into a plastic container and bring them to camp that way. If you do need to bring whole eggs, transport them in a hard plastic container to prevent breakage.

And, just as you do with the refrigerator door at home, discourage people from standing at the cooler with the lid open. Know what you want, get in, find it, and get out. Ice is melting! Organize your cooler so that foods you will be using first are on the top and foods you will be using last are on the bottom, or do the same thing going left to right. Find a system that works for you. The goal is to minimize as much as possible the time that the lid is open.

Here’s another option to limit the amount of lid lifting: Rather than bringing one giant cooler, bring smaller ones and designate each one for a different meal or different day. The cooler that is designated for Sunday breakfast never gets opened until Sunday morning.

If you plan on packing lots of canned and bottled beverages, consider bringing a beverage-specific cooler. Beverage coolers are opened and closed frequently, which allows chilled air to quickly escape. If your food is stored in a separate cooler that is opened less frequently, your temperature-sensitive foods will stay chilled for a longer period of time.

And, just like we discussed in “Think Inside the Box Part 2-Your Camp Pantry,” remember to secure or store your coolers against critters.

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Perfect Peach Cobbler

perfect_peach_cobblerSunday was National Peach Cobbler Day so I made this one. It’s a great recipe. The peaches on the bottom are spiced with just a little cinnamon and the biscuit topping is light and fluffy. The peach filling and the topping integrate nicely. It tastes very much like pie. We decided serving it with ice cream is best, but it is also good all by itself.

The recipe calls for canned peaches, but I imagine frozen or fresh would also work. If you go fresh or frozen, you may want to substitute some kind of fruit juice in place of the ¼ cup reserved syrup or juice from the canned peaches.

This recipe fits perfectly in a 10-inch Dutch oven or you could double it and bake it in a 14-inch Dutch oven, if you’re feeding a larger crowd. If you do double it, remember to adjust your coals for the 14-inch. If you are making this at home, you would use a 9×9 baking dish.


10-inch Dutch oven

2 mixing bowls

Mixing/serving spoon


Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients for the Fruit Filling

¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 can (28 oz.) peach slices in syrup or juice
¼ cup of reserved syrup or juice from canned peaches

Ingredients for the Topping

¼ cup butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup milk

Prep Work

Line your Dutch oven with foil (if you want) and start 21+ coals.

For the filling, strain the peaches, reserving ¼ cup of syrup or juice. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Add the peaches and the ¼ cup of reserved juice or syrup, and toss to coat the fruit. Transfer the peach mixture to the Dutch oven.

For the topping, in a medium size bowl, cream the butter and granulating sugar (using a fork) until well combined. Add the vanilla and the lightly beaten egg. Add the flour and the baking powder alternately with the milk. Batter will be thick. Using the fork or a spoon, drop the batter over the peaches in the baking dish.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 14 coals on the top and 7 coals underneath, for 30-35 minutes or until peaches are bubbling and topping is golden brown. Serve warm or cooled, plain or with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Serves 6.

Categories: Desserts, Dutch Oven, Fan Favorites, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Think Inside the Box Part 2-Your Camp Pantry

Hard sided totes are a good choice for your camp kitchen pantry. Totes protect delicate foods from getting smashed and bruised, and keep foods organized and gathered in one place. Totes keep most critters out. I say most because we all know nothing can stop a bear determined to have that last jelly donut!

And, critters are getting smarter. Some raccoons have learned how to open totes and even bear cans! For that reason, I always slide my totes under the picnic bench so critters can’t lift off the lid, or I use bungees or rope to secure the lids. You can also store your food totes in your car, but if you are in bear country, bears have been known to peel a car like an orange to get at the food stored inside! If you’re not familiar with the area, check with the local park rangers for food storage suggestions. Some ranger stations even have bear canisters that you can rent.

And, never, ever store any food in your tent or sleeping bag. One of our scouts learned that lesson the hard way when he had food in his tent and woke in the middle of the night to find raccoons chewing through his tent wall! He managed to scare them away but, needless to say, he didn’t sleep well the rest of the night.

At summer camp one year, there was a scout in a neighboring site who brought snacks into camp in his rolled up sleeping bag. While he and his troop mates were at the waterfront taking their swim tests, a squirrel chewed through the side of his rolled sleeping bag, ate the goodies, and then chewed its way out the other side. When he unrolled his sleeping bag, it looked like Swiss cheese! Luckily, for him, one of his Scoutmasters had brought an extra bag for just such an emergency.

Your camp pantry should be customized and built for each trip based on your planned menu. Below, are some items that you should probably always have in your pantry tote:

Salt and pepper shakers w/lids.

Cooking oil (small bottle). I prefer olive oil for its high smoke point.

Hot chocolate, apple cider, tea, coffee and/or Russian tea.

Sugar, creamer, cinnamon, and Mallow Bits. (For the awesomeness of Mallow Bits, see my blog post: “Product Review: Have You Never Been Mallow?”)

Seasonings for jazzing up your dishes on the fly or to individual tastes. Cook to the lowest tolerance level and let those who like it spicier layer on more to their liking.

Condiments (some people like hot sauce on everything).

Snacks and/or cracker barrel items. If dinner is running late, we can set out a small cracker barrel to stave off the bears so they don’t chew off a corner of the chuck box. If dinner ended up being early and/or we’ve had a late night of campfire, games or star gazing, a cracker barrel makes a great late-night snack before trudging off to bed. Little meats on crackers (like what you get in luncheables) make great cracker barrel fare (protein on a carb). A small veggie tray with a tub of ranch dressing is also good. Chips and a dip. Anything that is finger food with zero cleanup (think: pull it out, eat it, put it away). A sleeping warm trick is to eat a little protein before bed.

S’mores supplies.

Jiffy Pop Popcorn or popping corn kernels. (My son can’t go 24 hours without popcorn!)

Peanut butter and jam. This can be a snack or can supplement or replace a meal.

Container of disinfecting wipes. Good for emergency decontamination.

Paper towels.

Napkins. After eating, save your napkins and use them to wipe your dishes clean before you wash them. This will keep your wash water from getting gunky. If you’ve used them to mop up something greasy (like bacon grease), you could save them and use them later to start a fire.

Disposable grease receptacle (an empty tin can works). If you’re going to be cooking bacon or some other food that leaves a lot of grease, you need to have something that you can pour that grease into so it can cool, become solid, and be disposed of or saved for later use as a griddle lubricant or fire-starter.

So, what’s in your camp pantry? What do you think should be must haves in your food totes?

Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Fan Favorites | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rib-Stickin’ Biscuits and Gravy


Biscuits and gravy is just about the best breakfast comfort food there is. Warm, fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in thick, rich, creamy gravy. Mmm!

Here is a scrumptious gravy that is simple to make and guaranteed to stick to your ribs. The last time I made this in camp, I saw folks going back for thirds!

The biscuits can be baked in camp in a 16-inch Dutch oven or box oven or they can be baked at home or they can be store-bought. I always bake extra biscuits in case folks want more than one. And I always bring honey and jam for the extra biscuits.

I like to use country sausage because it has a maple flavor note, which contrasts nicely with the bite of the white and black peppers. And this is one of those times when I would NOT pre-cook the sausage because I don’t want to lose any of the drippings. I need everything in the skillet.

Adjust the peppers to your liking and be sure to use both white and black pepper as they each bring something to the party. The white pepper really adds some heat so be careful with that one.


16-inch Dutch oven

Large skillet or a 12-inch Dutch oven

Stirring/serving spoon


2 (12 oz., 8 ct.) tubes of refrigerator buttermilk biscuits

1 pound ground sausage

1 cup crumbled bacon

¼ cup flour

4 cups milk

½ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

Prep Work

Place biscuits side-by-side in preheated 16-inch Dutch oven. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but they all fit. Place 22 coals on the lid and 12 under the oven. Bake biscuits in a 325°F oven for 21-27 minutes, until they become a golden brown.

While the biscuits bake, brown the sausage in a large skillet or 12-inch Dutch oven. If the sausage is really lean, you can add a tablespoon of butter to help make the roux. Mix in the flour until it’s dissolved. Stir milk into the flour a little at a time until it’s all incorporated. Add white and black pepper and salt. Add in the crumbled bacon (I pre-cooked and crumbled the bacon at home). Simmer while stirring until gravy thickens. Serve gravy over opened biscuits.

Serves 8.

Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Think Inside the Box Part 1-Your Camp Kitchen

Usually I’m encouraging you to think outside the box, but just this once, I want you to think inside the box, specifically your chuck box—the box (or boxes) that serve as your camp kitchen.

Storage is always an issue in the camp kitchen. It needs to be compact; it can’t take up a lot of room in my vehicle or at the campsite. I have a 10×10 pop-up that serves as my kitchen shelter and everything needs to fit under that and still give me room to work. It needs to be organized so I can quickly find what I want without a lot of digging. I use a small plastic container to organize all my little items like vegetable peelers, paring knives, etc. I use a plastic bread storage container for my larger tools like whisks, mixing spoons, chef’s knife, etc. I do this also for safety. I don’t want to be digging through my equipment box and slice open my hand on a sharp knife!

In scouting, we use chuck boxes. These are free-standing wooden boxes with sides that open out to provide work space. The boxes have compartments to organize and hold equipment. Chuck boxes hearken back to 1866 and the days of cattle drives and chuck wagons. For the complete story, see my blog post: “History of the Chuck Wagon.”

With a quick internet search, you can find chuck boxes to purchase (some assembly required) or you can find plans that show you how to build your own or, if you’re handy or know someone who is, you could design and build your own. My chuck box is pictured below. It was purchased from


There are also a number of outdoor companies, including Coleman and Camp Chef that make camp kitchen organizers. However, if you’re on a tight budget, all you really need is a table or two for work space and some hard sided totes to hold your equipment. My back prefers tables with adjustable legs that I can extend up to counter height.

If you live in rain country like I do, you can use a pop up for a cook shelter or string a tarp overhead. I use a small, refillable propane tank and then I pack one propane canister in case my tank runs dry. All of my Dutch oven equipment is in its own tote. For a complete Dutch oven equipment list, see my blog post: “The Right Tool for the Right Job.”

Just as the kitchen is the hub of the home, the campfire and the camp kitchen are the hearth of your campsite. Here’s what’s in my chuck box and kitchen tote:



  • Cutting Board, Polyethylene
  • 2 Mixing Bowls, 10” Aluminum
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Apple Corer/Slicer
  • Pastry Cutter
  • Aluminum Foil, Heavy-Duty


Cook Kit

  • Camp Stove
  • Camp Stove Griddle
  • Lighter & Matches (in a water-tight container)
  • 8 Qt. Pot & Lid
  • Large Kettle
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • 4 Qt. Pot & Lid
  • 2 Qt. Pot
  • Non Stick Frying Pan
  • Colander
  • Pie Pan
  • Pizza Pan
  • Coffee Pot


Large Tool Kit (in a Plastic Container)large_tool_container

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Tongs
  • Ladle
  • Whisk
  • Spatula, High Temp. Plastic
  • Large Cooking Spoon
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Turning Fork
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Scissors


Small Tool Kit (in a Plastic Container)small_tool_container

  • Paring Knife
  • Can Opener
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Thermometer
  • Table Forks x4
  • Table Spoons x4
  • Table Knives x4


Eating Utensils

  • Plates x4
  • Bowls x4
  • Cups x4


Clean Up

  • Dish Washing Tubs x3
  • Bleach, Small Bottle
  • Dish Soap, Small Bottle
  • Sponge w/Scrubber
  • Clothesline Rope & Clothes Pins
  • Trash Bags w/Drawstring
  • Cheesecloth (for Straining Gray Water)


Linens (clean plastic grocery bag)

  • Oven Mitts x2
  • Mesh Dunk Bags (for Hanging and Air Drying Dishes)
  • Dish Washing Cloths
  • Dish Towels
  • Tablecloths for Picnic Table x2


Storage Supplies

  • Zip-loc Bags, 1 gallon
  • Zip-loc Bags, Sandwich
Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Fan Favorites | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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