Monthly Archives: April 2015

No One Wants a Cranky Cook

Angry-Bear-GrizzlyBeing a camp cook is very rewarding but tiresome work. I’m usually the first one up in the morning, getting a fire going, getting the coffee and hot water on, and making breakfast. In the evening, I’m cleaning up after dinner, setting out s’mores makings and/or a cracker barrel, prepping breakfast, and securing the camp kitchen for the night. Somewhere in between is making lunch and dinner and various other activities.

By the end of the weekend, I’m often sleep deprived, coffee deprived (because I was too busy to drink it), and my hands are as dry as the Sahara because they’ve been in and out of water all weekend.

But it’s all worth it to know that those in my care were well fed that weekend, and my ego never gets tired of hearing the compliments. Still, there are things that could make the experience much better for me.

As early as I sometimes need to get up in the morning, I always try to get up a littler earlier so that I have time to wash my face and brush my hair and get myself ready for the day. Sometimes, before the hustle and bustle of breakfast begins, I even get to take a moment and enjoy the sunrise!

In the morning, it’s okay to be a little selfish and get that first cup of coffee or tea or cocoa, and make sure you take a moment to actually drink it. Trust me. Everyone in camp will be grateful that you did. No one wants a cranky cook!

At meal times, remember to get your firsts before you call for seconds. I remember one time we were cooking for 200+ campers at Camp River Ranch and we made this awesome breakfast and sent all the batches out to the campers before we realized that we did not reserve a batch for us. DOH! Not to worry. We managed to rustle some back to the kitchen, but I can guarantee you that we didn’t do that again! The cooks have to eat too.

Make sure that you are also hydrating throughout the weekend. Often times, we get so busy that we forget to take those frequent water breaks, and it’s ironic because I usually spend all weekend reminding everyone else to hydrate!

Remember to pack hand lotion and lip balm and use them often. After every meal clean up and/or dish washing, I try to pull out the lotion and rub a generous amount onto my hands before I move on to other activities.

Bring a comfy camp chair and, whenever you get a chance, sit down and put your feet up. Take a rest. You’ve earned it.

All this reminds me of an Isotoner Glove commercial circa mid 1980s. Then Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino said he was getting isotoner gloves for all his offensive linemen because he wanted to take care of the hands that take care of him.

marinoLOD

If you have a camp cook in your life, remember to take care of them while they are taking care of you. If you are the camp cook, remember to take care of yourself.

 

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Dutch Oven Zucchini and Onion Frittata

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Sitting in a cook shelter by a warm fire watching snow falling is magical. It was getting late and we needed to finish unpacking and getting set up. Some of our students would start arriving soon; the rest would arrive early in the morning. We needed to be ready, but all we could do was sit by the fire, sip our hot tea, and talk in hushed tones as we watched the snow fall.

It was early April in 2008. Donna and Chris and I were teaching outdoor skills to Girl Scout adult volunteers at Camp River Ranch. We had arrived Friday night to set up because class started first thing Saturday morning. As we were setting up, waiting for our students to arrive, it started to snow! It was a light snow, just dusting the ground, but it was snowing! In April! Undaunted, we added a couple more pieces of wood to the fire and sat in the cook shelter and watched it snow, utterly distracted by it all. At some point, we did finish setting up and then we silently trudged through the snow to our open-air cabin and crawled into our warm toasty sleeping bags.

It snowed off and on all weekend. Sunday morning, we made this frittata for breakfast. Donna had actually made it at home in a cast iron skillet and loved it. She was confidant we could adapt it to the Dutch oven. I had never made a frittata. I didn’t even know what a frittata was! Chris is Italian so she actually knew what a frittata was but I don’t think she had actually ever made one. But, between the two of us, we adapted it to the Dutch oven and it was amazing!

I discovered that a frittata is an egg-based Italian dish similar to an omelet or crustless quiche. You sauté your meats and/or vegetables in a cast iron skillet, add your beaten egg mixture and cheese and then you move it into the oven to bake.

So, Sunday morning, we walked our students through it (we made a double batch in 2 Dutch ovens). They sautéed the onions and zucchini in my 12-inch Dutch ovens, added the remaining ingredients, and then we put the lids on and moved them to coals. The zucchini were perfectly al dente. The eggs poofed like a soufflé! It was warm, flavorful and so yummy on a cold, snowy Sunday morning! I was sold and I have loved this recipe ever since.

We made it again just a couple weeks ago while teaching outdoor cooking skills to more Girl Scout adult volunteer leaders. This time we were at Camp Robbinswold and the weather was beautiful! Once again, it performed to perfection! It was definitely a hit!

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Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven (in camp) or cast iron skillet (at home), knife and cutting board, mixing bowl, wisk, measuring cups and spoons.

 

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning

9 small zucchini (2 pounds), washed, dried, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

¼ cup bread crumbs

1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

9 eggs, beaten

 

Prep

Slice the onions and zucchini. Over medium heat, either over coals or on a stove, warm olive oil in the skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onions, stirring to coat with the oil. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and stir gently to mix with the onions. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the zucchini softens, about 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and drain off any liquid from the pan. Spread the onions and zucchini evenly in the bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until well blended. Pour over zucchini mixture, cover and bake in a 325°F oven, using 16 coals on the lid and 7 coals underneath, for 45 minutes. Sprinkle on remaining Parmesan cheese and bake another 5 minutes.

Serves 8

 

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Are You a Prepper? If Not, You Should Be

Bagged-BlueberriesWhen preparing for a camping trip, how much prepping do you do at home? Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking in camp and after a hard day of play and adventure, nothing beats sitting down to a great meal. But when I go camping I don’t want to spend all my time cooking. I also want to hike, fish, canoe, hunt, spend time with my family and friends, and enjoy the outdoors.

I also want to pack efficiently and I don’t see the sense in packing a 5-lb bag of flour to camp if all I’m going to use out of it is one cup’s worth.

Many ingredients can be prepped at home and stored in resealable bags, plastic containers or plastic bottles and transported to camp in your cooler or food tote. Whatever you use for transport, make sure it seals up tightly. It’s not fun to get to camp and find that a glass container has broken or a plastic bottle or bag has leaked and now the entire contents of your cooler are contaminated.

When we are planning to bake in camp, we prep all our dry ingredients at home. I use resealable bags and write what it is for on the bag with a sharpie so there is no mistaking the flour for the sugar.

Vegetables can be washed and chopped at home.

If you don’t need whole eggs for frying or boiling, you could crack and lightly beat the eggs and pour them into a plastic bottle for transporting in your cooler. That way, you don’t have to worry about breakage or a cardboard egg carton getting soggy in your cooler.

Speaking of eggs, if you are planning on serving hard boiled or deviled eggs, you could boil them at home and transport them in your cooler. For more ideas for deviled eggs, see my blog post: “The Devil is in the Eggs.”

Most meats can be pre-cooked at home; however, I would not recommend pre-cooking steaks. By the time you get them reheated in camp, they’ve turned into shoe leather. I also wouldn’t recommend pre-cooking any meats that you’ll be making gravy from. You’ll want all that those savory drippings in your skillet and you’ll lose too much if you pre-cook the meat at home.

Many sauces can be made ahead of time. Some sauces even taste better if they are made a day or two ahead of time and all the seasonings have a chance to marry together.

Marinade and meat can be combined at home in a resealable bag or plastic container and then the meat marinades all the way to camp.

Pie, pizza and cookie dough can be made ahead.

Pasta can be cooked at home and brought to camp for combining with other ingredients. Slightly under cook the pasta as it will cook more in camp.

There are many ways you can make camp cooking easier so that you can spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

 

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Three-Apple Salad is Sweet and Savory

3_Apple_Salad_IMG_0865_600pxI absolutely love this salad and I’m not a big salad fan so that’s saying a lot. We made it just a couple weeks ago while teaching outdoor cooking to a group of Girl Scout adult volunteers. We served it with a hearty, spicy potato chowder and it was the perfect side dish. The salad was light, tart, sweet and savory. It was like a little party in your mouth.

I love the different colors and flavors of the apples. We used a sweet red Gala, a yellow Golden Delicious, and a tart green Granny Smith. Instead of the Gala, you could use a Fuji. Of the variations below, we used cheddar cheese (I chose sharp for its bold flavor), dried cherries, and crunchy walnuts. Instead of the frozen apple juice concentrate, we used regular apple juice. The dressing is creamy and tangy and doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. The green onion adds just a little bite.

This recipe has great flavors and is very kid friendly. It’s just yummy!

To prep at home, you could mix the dressing, toast the nuts (which I forgot to do) and even dice the cheese and celery and slice the green onions. I would dice the apples in camp right before assembly. Because we were teaching, we had our “students” prep everything in camp and it didn’t take long at all. Below is a picture of everything in the bowl before we added the dressing. This is a double batch. Isn’t it pretty?!

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Because of its light and fresh flavors and the cooling properties of the dressing, this salad would pair perfectly with anything that is heavy and/or spicy.

 

Equipment

Medium-size mixing bowl, small-size mixing bowl, knife, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, rubber spatula.

 

Ingredients

3 apples (1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green) diced (½-inch) to measure 2 cups

3 ounces Swiss, Cheddar or Gouda cheese, diced ½-inch to measure ¾ cup

½ cup celery, diced (½-inch)

½ cup dried cherries or cranberries

1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

½ cup plain fat-free yogurt

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon frozen apple juice concentrate or straight apple juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

 

Prep

In medium bowl, combine apples, cheese, celery, cherries, green onion and nuts.

For dressing, in small bowl stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, apple juice concentrate and the lemon juice. Toss gently with salad. Serve on lettuce leaves if desired.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

To toast nuts, spread nuts on baking sheet and bake in a 325°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring twice, until nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. If you want to toast these in camp, you could use a box oven with 13 briquettes or a Dutch oven. To determine the number of coals needed for the size of your Dutch oven, reference the Dutch Oven Temperature Chart on the Soup to Nuts page.

 

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network and Homestead Blog Hop. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

 

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Ramping Up for Camping!

Tent-Camping-600pxAre you ready to go camping? Now is a good time to head to the basement or garage or where ever you store your camping equipment, and take inventory.

Take a good look at what you have, what you need, and what you want for your adventures. Check things like work tables, utensils, pots and pans, mess kits, shelters. Is it all in good shape or does something need to be repaired or replaced? Is it time for a new set of tent stakes? Now’s the time to replenish those non-perishable supplies.

Examine Fabrics

While you’re checking your tents and sleeping bags for broken zippers, split seams, etc., remember to check your cook shelter, dish towels, wash cloths, and oven mitts. Check for rodent damage. Mice just love fabrics for cozy winter nests. It’s not a pleasant discovery but it’s better to find out now than when you’re ready to leave for that long awaited camping trip.

Check Equipment

Fire up your camp stove, lanterns, BBQ, etc. to be sure that insects haven’t decided to make a home in the tubes or burners over the winter. Check your propane and charcoal supplies. Inspect all your cast iron. If you didn’t use it over the winter, did it winter okay? Is the seasoning still good?

This is also a good time to check all your flashlights, lanterns, etc. to be sure they’re in good working order and that you have a good supply of mantles, replacement batteries, etc. Have you ever arrived at a campsite after dark only to discover that your lantern batteries are dead? I also like to make sure I have a good supply of citronella candles to keep bugs out of my camp kitchen.

Plan Ahead

Take a look at your calendar. Are there any trips that you’re taking where you might need some special equipment? A backpacking trip? Bike trip? Fishing trip? Plan and shop ahead. Take your time and make pre-season planning an enjoyable part of your camping experience.

Now let’s get outside!

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Blueberry French Toast Casserole

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This French toast casserole is loaded with French toast flavor with none of the mess or bread flipping. It all goes together in a Dutch oven and, when it’s done, you can all sit down together and eat.

This recipe can be prepped up to 24 hours in advance so you could prep it at home right before you leave and then assemble it the next morning for a quick and easy breakfast in camp. It also makes a great breakfast at home that you can assemble the night before, and is a great way to do French toast if you’re feeding a crowd. If you dry the bread by baking it in the oven (instructions are at the bottom of the post) then the bread cubes will act like little sponges and really soak up the egg mixture and make a firmer casserole.

We’ve made this with fresh and frozen blueberries and with frozen peaches and we like each of those versions. The one pictured above was made with blueberries. Very yummy! We want to try apples next.

 

Equipment

12-inch Dutch oven or 3-quart rectangular baking dish, mixing bowl, whisk, measuring cups and spoons

 

Ingredients

12 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups), dried*

1 8 ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, peaches or apple chunks

12 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 cup maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

 

Prep

In a mixer at home or in a medium mixing bowl in camp, whip or whisk cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs, milk, syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. The cream cheese will be lumpy and that’s okay.

Place half of the bread cubes over the bottom of a well-buttered 3-quart rectangular baking dish or foil-lined Dutch oven. Sprinkle fruit over bread cubes. Arrange remaining bread cubes over fruit.

Carefully pour egg mixture over the bread mixture. This can be covered and chilled up to 24 hours; however, I would not recommend chilling it in the Dutch oven. I would assemble it in a bowl for transport to camp and then, in the morning, just dump it into the foil-lined Dutch oven and bake. When we made this last weekend, we did everything in camp, assembled, and then let it sit while we prepped the coals and that was plenty of time for the bread to soak up the egg mixture.

Prep 25 coals.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 coals underneath, for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, and topping is puffed and golden brown. Refresh coals as needed. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with maple syrup or flavored syrup to compliment your fruit.

Serves 8

 

*To dry bread slices, arrange bread in a single layer on a wire rack; cover loosely and let stand overnight. Or cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes; spread in a large baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until dry, stirring twice; cool.

 

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Categories: Breakfasts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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