Monthly Archives: February 2016

Chili Quick and Simple


Yesterday was National Chili Day! We love chili and this chili goes together fast and easy. It would be a great meal for a Friday night after you’ve rolled into your site and set up camp. It’s also a hot, slightly spicy, hearty meal. You can get this on the picnic table in about 30 minutes, which should leave plenty of time to eat, clean up, and get started on the evening campfire.

It has nice, fresh tomato flavor with just a little kick from the green chiles and chili powder. I prefer to use petite diced tomatoes. Our protein of choice was ground beef and we chose to use kidney and black beans. We used a can of tomato sauce, but if you prefer a thicker chili, you could use tomato paste instead.

If you’re home, you could also make this in a slow cooker. Brown the meat on the stove top before adding it and the other ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook the chili on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

In camp, if you have a little more time, this would be great to start a little earlier and let it simmer for an hour or two. We made my awesome cornbread to go with it. If I wasn’t crunched for time, I would probably start the chili and then make the cornbread, which bakes for an hour, and let the chili simmer while the cornbread bakes.

For the cornbread recipe, please see my blog post: “Cookie’s Cornbread.”


For a fully loaded, awesome, rich flavor, 4-bean, slow-cook chili, please see my blog post: “Cookie’s 4 Bean Chili Con Carne.”


But if you’re looking for a tasty and fast to the picnic table meal, this one is a winner.

4-quart pot or 10-inch Dutch oven, cutting board, knife, colander, tablespoon, stirring/serving spoon.

1 pound ground beef (or protein of choice)
2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans beans, drained and rinsed (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, or a combination)
1 small white onion, diced
2 tablespoons chili powder

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, sauté the onions in a little bit of butter and then brown the ground beef, stirring frequently. Drain any excess grease. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the onion is cooked and softened to your liking. Serve with shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro, etc. Serves 4-6.

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Categories: Dutch Oven, Main Dishes, Meals in 30 Min., One Pot, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Banana Bread

blues_banana_bread_IMG_1450_690pxIn honor of National Banana Bread Day, here’s a simple banana bread recipe. You could make this in camp and bake it in a Dutch oven or in a box oven or you could make it at home and bring it to camp for a healthy snack. It works well as either muffins or a loaf. If you make a loaf, you could also slice it up and use it to make French toast for breakfast!

This is an easy recipe with just a few ingredients. We’ve been making this banana bread for many years, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Sift and measure flour. Resift with soda and salt. Cream butter and sugar. Add beaten eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture. Add flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Mix in Bananas. Pour into well-greased pan and bake at 350°F for 1 hour. For muffins, bake for 18 minutes.

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Apple Raisin Monkey Bread


I think this just became my new favorite monkey bread! A couple weeks ago, we were going to a potluck brunch with friends and we wanted to make monkey bread. On a lark, we decided to add a diced apple and it was amazing! We loved it!

We used a Golden Delicious apple, but you could use whatever variety you like. We chose the Golden Delicious for its mild, sweet flavor. You could also use a Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, any of the sweet varieties. You could even use a Granny Smith if you wanted a bit of tartness to counteract all the sweetness.

In addition to the raisins, the apple added a fresh and fruity component to the heavy sweet monkey bread. Apple and caramel are a classic pairing as are apple and raisin. It was a win all the way around.

So, in honor of National Sticky Bun Day Sunday, February 21, we just might have to make this one, again!

12-inch Dutch oven or 12-cup Bundt pan.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans (16.3 oz each) refrigerated biscuits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup apple, peeled and diced
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Start 25 coals in a chimney or preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the Dutch oven or Bundt pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large resealable plastic storage food bag, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Add to bag, seal, and shake to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts, raisins, and apple among the biscuit pieces.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.

Bake at 350°F, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 28 to 32 minutes or until the top is golden brown and center is no longer doughy. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

Serves 12.


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Categories: Breakfasts, Desserts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Scalloped Potatoes are the Mother of All Comfort Foods


meatloaf_scalloped_potatoes_IMG_1221_690pxScalloped potatoes are one of my family’s favorite winter comfort foods. They pair very nicely with my meatloaf. They both cook at the same temperature. The potatoes go into the oven first because they cook 90 minutes and then I assemble the meatloaf and it goes into the oven for an hour. I time it so they are done at the same time. I serve them together with either a green vegetable or a salad. It’s heaven on a plate!

For the meatloaf recipe, please see my blog post: “Best Ever Meatloaf.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how old this scalloped potatoes recipe is. I know it dates back to at least my grandmother and hasn’t really changed at all over the years. I use black pepper in the béchamel (white sauce) and, technically, you should use white pepper, but this is the way my mother and grandmother made it and that’s how I make it. Feel free to try it both ways and use whichever you like best.

I think scalloped potatoes are the comfort food of all comfort foods. It’s a savory dish with just a little sweetness from the creamy white sauce. The top gets brown and just a little crusty. It’s smooth and creamy. I could probably go on for days!

For last fall’s pioneering weekend, I really wanted some comfort foods because the weather was going to be cold and rainy. I was also curious about how the scalloped potatoes would perform in a Dutch oven and they did not disappoint.

I made them a little differently in camp. At home, I make the béchamel on the stove top. In a 2-quart casserole dish, I build 2-3 layers of potatoes, sauce, parsley, and bits of butter. In camp, I wanted to make this as a one-pot dish so I actually made the béchamel in the Dutch oven and then dumped in the potatoes and pushed them down into the sauce. It worked!

Below is the camp version, but you could easily adapt it back into your home kitchen if you wanted to.

12-inch Dutch oven, cutting board, knife, measuring spoons and cups.

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups whole milk or heavy cream
4 cups of potatoes, peeled and sliced (about 1/8-inch ish thick)
¼ cup parsley, dried or fresh, chopped (this measurement is just a guess on my part because I just eyeball it)
1-3 tablespoons extra butter, cubed, for dotting onto the top

Peal and slice the potatoes. I slice mine pretty thin (about 1/8-inch ish thick). You could do this at home and load them into a resealable bag. Start 21 coals. In the Dutch oven, using coals or a camp stove, melt the butter over low heat. Blend in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk or cream. Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil gently until sauce becomes smooth and creamy. Stir in a generous amount of chopped or dried parsley. Drop in the sliced potatoes and push down into the sauce until they are all covered. Dot the top with the extra butter. Bake at 350°F, using 14 coals on the lid and 7 underneath, for 90 minutes. Refresh coals as needed.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Categories: Dutch Oven, Recipes, Sides | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pesky Picky Eaters


Picky eaters are hard enough to deal with in a home kitchen, but in a camp kitchen where what you have is what you brought, picky eaters can make camp life miserable.

We are blessed to have two children who will eat just about anything. They are always open to trying new things. I am still amazed by what they like and what they will eat when presented with something new. We frequently experiment with new recipes (a must when you’re blogging about food) and they are always game. How did we do it? I’ll share our secret.

When they were babies and started eating solid foods, we fed them as much table food as we could. We tamed down our spices so as not to overwhelm their tender palettes and mashed up everything from spaghetti to apple pie. We started with sweeter things and slowly added the savory. As their little taste buds developed, we introduced more and more foods and flavors to them.


We Only Had Two Rules:

#1 You have to try at least one bite. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.

#2 If we make it again, you have to try it every time we make it.

Here’s why: Taste buds develop and mature as you grow, so what a child does not like today, they may like tomorrow or next month or next year. By making them constantly retry things, sometimes they discover that they like something they didn’t like the first time they tried it. Kids are way smarter than we ever give them credit for so, telling them why is important.

Another thing I tried to do was not pass on my food dislikes to them. In trying to broaden their palettes, we sometimes prepared a food that I wasn’t too keen on, like peas. But I put on my happy face and I ate them with a smile. And, you know what? Over time, I learned to like peas too.

Sometimes our dislike of certain foods was the way it was prepared when we first tried it. So my husband and I experimented when preparing foods that we thought our parents had botched when serving them to us as children.

In addition to expanding their palettes, we’re also teaching problem solving, adapting, and compromising, which are important skills to have in the family and in life. For example, my husband and son like dishes with heat, my daughter does not, and I’m probably somewhere in the middle. But rather than just eliminate all things spicy from our menu to the great disappointment of the majority of the family, we have helped her adapt at the table by using sour cream, cheese, milk, and breads to counteract the heat.

Whenever we have gotten push back, we explored why they didn’t like it. Even young children can be great food critics because they are not inhibited and will be, sometimes brutally, honest with you. So we asked questions and helped them explore what it was about the dish that they didn’t like. Was it too much of a particular spice or ingredient? Was it a texture thing? Was something undercooked (a little too al dente) or overcooked (mushy)? Having a child say, “I don’t like it,” and not exploring why they don’t like it, robs you of the opportunity to be able to make changes and try again.

The end result is two teenagers who will now eat just about anything, and I couldn’t be more proud.


What if the Picky Eater Does Not Belong to You?

So, what do you do when you inherit a picky eater? It could be a relative’s child or your child’s friend who’s on a weekend family camping trip with you, or scouting buddies you or your child is cooking for on a troop outing, or perhaps you’re a foster parent. This can be tough because you have not fed this child from birth and they have not had to live by Rule #1 and Rule #2. And, just like grampa, they can be stubborn and set in their ways!

I start by explaining my rules and the whole developing taste bud argument. I also explain that this is all we have and I encourage them to give it a try. Campers are usually hungry and when faced with a “this is all we have” scenario, it’s amazing what they will eat and in what quantities. I also try to serve a well-rounded meal with a few side dishes, bread, etc. Usually there is something on the plate they will eat. In some cases, it is not that they don’t like it, it’s that they’ve never had it and they are afraid of the unknown food or dish. Most of the time, if I can just get them to try it, often times they end up liking it.

My son’s Boy Scout troop went winter camping at Camp Sheppard and we cooked all our meals in the small lodge kitchen. The first night, I served them a hot and hearty beef stew and one of the boys didn’t want any. I played all my cards and discovered that this 12-year-old boy had never had stew, which completely blew my mind, but what can you do?! I encouraged him to try it and he took one bite and then another and I walked away and left him to his exploration. A little while later, he came back to the kitchen with a big smile on his face asking for seconds! That made my night.

So, what do you do with a hardcore picky eater who refuses to try it or does try it, but insists they don’t like it and won’t eat it? The first question you have to ask yourself is: Are they being honest or just being obstinate because you are making them try it? I’ve seen kids do this. They try it and it’s the best thing they’ve ever tasted but they refuse to admit it. Whichever it is, sometimes I just shrug and say, “Well, this is all we have,” and I walk away. They have to decide how hungry they are or if there are enough other items on the table to satisfy them.

Finally, we always have a good supply of snacks and I almost always pack peanut butter and jelly to supplement or replace a meal. But I don’t offer that to them right away. If you give them an easy out, you will never get them to try new things. Sometimes they need to be a little desperate to get up enough courage to try something new. When all else fails, I never let them go hungry.

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