Monthly Archives: July 2015

Not Your Mama’s Mac and Cheese


Today is National Macaroni Day and this mac and cheese is one of my favorites. In the picture above I used rotini, but that’s only because I really like rotini. I love the way the sauce gets trapped in the spirals.

This mac and cheese definitely falls into the comfort food category, but it’s not your typical mac and cheese. It’s warm, cheesy, creamy and loaded with fall flavors. The sharp white cheddar combines nicely with the Gruyere, which is similar to Swiss. The bay leaves and the nutmeg remind me of autumn.

While the flavors are a little more “grown up” kids still like it. Last fall, we made this for 120 youth at a weekend retreat. All the serving bowls came back empty!

If you wanted to make this in your camp kitchen, you could cook the pasta at home or in camp and combine all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. I’d recommend a 12-inch for the batch below. If you camp with carnivores like I tend to, you could also add a protein like cubed ham or sliced salami. You could also add a few vegetables if you wanted to bulk it up. However you decide to make it, this is a great mac and cheese.

4-quart baking dish or 12-inch Dutch oven

16 ounces (1 pound) macaroni, rotini or other short pasta
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup flour
4 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente. Drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and salt, and simmer about 8 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thick. Remove the bay leaf and stir in 4 cups cheddar and the Gruyere. If you’re using a Dutch oven, stir in the pasta and top with remaining cheddar or butter a 4-quart baking dish; add the pasta mixture and top with the remaining cheddar. Bake in a 400°F oven, using 19 coals on top and 10 underneath, for 15 minutes.

Serves 8

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Categories: Dutch Oven, Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Minutes, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triple Threat Chocolate Cake


Today, in honor of National Chocolate Day, we’re talking chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cake. It has cocoa powder, chocolate pudding mix, and chocolate chips making it a triple threat. Like the Death by Chocolate Cake we raved about last year, this one is also a coma inducing chocolate cake that satisfied all the chocoholics in camp.

However, while the Death by Chocolate was all ooey gooey, this cake is moist and fluffy. And all it needs is a light dusting of powdered sugar. But I suppose, if you wanted to, you could slather on some frosting. It would also pair nicely with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or a mountain of whipped cream! You could also toss on some chopped nuts! Oh, the possibilities are endless! At the end of the night, we loved this cake.

And just imagine your campers surprise when you not only serve them a decadent, delicious chocolate cake, but an amazing chocolate cake made from scratch. And you will be amazed at how easy and quickly this cake goes together. Dare I say? It was a piece o’ cake!

12-inch Dutch oven, mixing bowl, whisk, measuring cups and spoons.

1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
⅔ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups sour cream
4 eggs
1 (3.9-ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

At home, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk powder in a resealable bag for transport to camp.

In camp, line the Dutch oven with foil and grease the foil. Start 25 coals.

Into a large mixing bowl, dump the dry ingredients. Add oil, sour cream, and eggs, and blend well. Stir in the pudding mix and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the foil-lined Dutch oven.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 coals underneath, for about 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Refresh coals as needed.

Cool the cake slightly then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 12-14


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

Order in the Kitchen

mise_en_place_690pxOrderliness is a virtue. It means you are organized and you know where things are when you need them. In the kitchen, it’s called mise en place (French pronunciation: mi zɑ̃ ˈplas), which means “putting in place” as in set up. We like to call it prep. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require to prepare a dish.

The practice is also effective in home and camp kitchens. When cooking, timing can be very important. In the time it can take you to search for an ingredient and get it ready to add to your pot, you can completely burn what is cooking in the pot. Whereas, if you had that ingredient already set out and chopped or measured then you can add it at the appropriate time with no worries that your dish is ruined.

In camp, we all know that whatever you’re looking for is always at the bottom of the cooler or at the bottom of the food tote or at the very back of the chuckbox. Sometimes it can take much longer than you think it will to find the items you’re looking for.

Now, some may argue that you’re creating more work because the dishes you’re using to hold your assembled ingredients will all need to be washed. And, they are right. They are absolutely right. However, experience has taught me that the little extra dish washing I have to do is well worth eating a perfectly prepared meal that is not overcooked or burnt or missing ingredients that I ran out of time searching for.

So, whether at home or in camp, before you begin cooking, review your recipe and pull out all the equipment you will need, and pull out all the ingredients and prepare them in the manner that you need to. Only then should you begin cooking.

If you’re already doing this, give yourself a pat on back. You earned it!

If you don’t do this, give it a try. Trust me. You will be amazed at how much smoother and better your dishes will come together.

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

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