I have cooked in some pretty miserable conditions, including 2 feet of snow, gale-force winds, and torrential rain, but I have to say one of the worst was last fall during our Boy Scout troop’s pioneering weekend. It’s an annual skill-building event held every October where we campout on a local farm and build large structures using our knot and lashing skills. The boys have built some pretty amazing structures from monkey bridges to catapults. In addition to honing their knot and lashing skills, they learn about teamwork, engineering, physics, and gravity! It’s always a great weekend with lots of learning and skill building.
In October, the weather is always a little iffy and, in years past, we’ve usually had pretty good luck. Last October? Not so much. It was cold, which is not unusual, and rainy, again, not unusual (this is the Northwest), but it just didn’t rain, it dumped buckets, all day long. It didn’t just rain cats and dogs, but cows, horses and chickens, too! By dinnertime, I had a 2-foot wide river running through the middle of my cook shelter! But we’re scouts and we all toughed it out and had a lot of fun despite the downpours.
Menu Planners Stepped up
One of the things that helped us all get through the cold and wet weekend was our menu planning. In the weeks leading up to the pioneering weekend, I worked with my scout grubmasters and coached them to plan hot and hearty meals and to make sure they had lots of hot beverages like apple cider and hot cocoa. A good hot meal in your belly, warms you up, staves off hypothermia, and improves morale. All of them stepped up and planned some great menus, much to the appreciation of their patrol mates.
Because I had volunteered to cook for the adult volunteer leaders, I did my best to set a good example, which is what I always try to do when I’m cooking on a scout outing. When planning my menu, I decided to convert one of my family’s all-time favorite comfort meals, which is meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. I had never made either one outdoors, but I was looking for great comfort foods and those two are on my short list.
For the scalloped potatoes recipe, please see my blog post: “Scalloped Potatoes are the Mother of All Comfort Foods.”
Best Ever Meatloaf
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Ugh! Meatloaf! Really?! I have to admit, I’ve had some really lousy meatloaves over the years. I have an aunt, who shall remain nameless, who frequently made meatloaf when we came to visit and, I swear, it was like eating sawdust! But have no fear, meatloaf phobes, this meatloaf recipe is a winner! It even won over my meatloaf-hating hubby many years ago and, like I said above, this is one of our favorite comfort foods.
I prepped the meatloaf entirely at home. Before we left on Friday, I mixed together all the ingredients and loaded the meat mixture into a container, which then went into the cooler. In camp, Saturday night, I dumped the meat mixture into an oiled Dutch oven, patted it into what looked like a monster-sized hamburger patty and started it baking. When it was done, it wasn’t pretty (one of the Scoutmasters even asked if it was just a giant hamburger patty), but it tasted amazing and my fellow Scoutmasters came back for seconds.
I should note that I use dried, minced onion, dried parsley, and dried sage. You can use fresh onion and herbs, but they will add moisture rather than soak up moisture so if you go fresh and the meatloaf is a little sloppy, that might be the reason.
I should also note that I don’t use any kind of glaze on top of my meatloaf. I know it’s traditional, but I’ve never liked them and when I started making my own meatloaf, I opted not to do that. I prefer a side of ketchup and that’s it. If you’ve got a glaze that you like, by all means, use it.
So, here is what my family calls the Best Ever Meatloaf. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
10-inch Dutch oven, large mixing bowl, a fork for mixing, measuring cups and spoons.
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
2 tablespoons dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds ground beef
In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and milk; stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Add ground beef. Thoroughly mix meat and seasonings. I use a fork to do all this. Take your time and mix it really well.
When it’s all mixed, I usually pick it up with my hands and shape it into a ball or a loaf. Plop it into an oiled Dutch oven and pat into desired shape. Bake at 350°F, using 14 coals on the lid and 7 underneath, for 60 minutes.
Makes about 6 servings.
This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. 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!