Monthly Archives: March 2016

Best Buttermilk Biscuits


One of my culinary goals for 2016 is to up my biscuit/scone making game. Well, I have another winner to share with you. This is the best buttermilk biscuit I’ve ever tasted. It’s light and fluffy and buttery. It tastes great with gravy on it or honey or jam or just plain butter or nothing at all. Making these biscuits have become a weekend tradition. My family has declared them to be better than the ones made by the Golden Arches or the Colonel.

Yes, these biscuits are that good. Here are a few tricks that make them so good.

For light and fluffy biscuits, the butter needs to be really cold; so, I froze the butter and, using my cheese grater, I grated the butter. I placed the butter shavings in a container and put them back in the freezer. You could do this in camp with an ice-heavy cooler, or you could grate the butter ahead at home and then keep it in a really cold cooler or buried deep in the ice. By prepping my butter this way, when I add my butter to my dry ingredients, all it needs is a few turns of the pastry cutter and it’s mixed in. So it takes less muscle and time, and my butter stays colder.

The same goes for the buttermilk. It needs to be cold when you add it. Leave it in your cooler until you need it.

You could also premix your dry ingredients at home for easy prep in camp. I would recommend starting your coals and then, working very quickly, make your biscuits. By the time the biscuits are all cut and placed into the Dutch oven, your coals should be ready to go. If you prep your dry ingredients at home, remember to pack extra flour for flouring your board and working with the dough. A couple of cups ought to do.

Finally, when cutting your biscuits, use a straight down, straight up cutting motion. Do not twist because it seals the sides of the biscuits, which can prevent them from rising.

To cut out my biscuits, I used a 2½” cutter and I was able to make 9 biscuits, which works perfectly in my 12-inch Dutch oven. I placed 8 biscuits around the outside edge, one on each compass point, and 1 biscuit in the center.

12-inch Dutch oven or baking sheet, medium-sized bowl, grater, pastry cutter, spatula, biscuit cutter, measuring cups and spoons.

6 tablespoons butter, grated and frozen
2 cups flour, plus extra for flouring your board and working with the dough
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
2-3 tablespoons butter, melted, for greasing the inside of the Dutch oven and for brushing onto the biscuits when they are done

In a chimney, start 33 coals or, at home, preheat your oven. Grease the inside of the Dutch oven.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together your dry ingredients. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and cut in using a pastry cutter or a fork until it resembles course crumbs. Add the cold buttermilk and stir until dough is mixed and combined. I prefer to use a rubber spatula, but you could also use a fork or your hands. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangle, sprinkling with flour as needed to prevent it from sticking to your hands or the board. Fold the dough over and onto itself six times, so you end up with a tall square, then pat down to about 1 inch thick. I used a 2½” cutter to cut my biscuits. It is important that you push down to cut the dough and pull straight up (do not twist). Leftover dough can be combined and cut again, but no more than 1 or 2 times.

Place the biscuits in the Dutch oven or on a baking sheet, almost touching each other.

Bake in a 450°F oven, using 22 coals on the lid and 11 underneath, for 12-15 until browned. After the biscuits are baked, brush tops with melted butter.

Makes 9 biscuits

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Categories: Dutch Oven, Recipes, Sides | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cure for Pesky Picky Eaters is BYO Meals


Whenever you’re cooking for picky eaters or having to work around a lot of food allergies or special needs, any kind of meal your campers can assemble themselves is a great way to go. These include meals like tacos, burritos, baked potato bars, deli sandwiches, foil wraps, etc. These are all meals where you simply set out all the ingredients and your campers choose what they want to fill their plate. If they don’t like something, they don’t take it. This way, you don’t have to listen to “I don’t like that” or someone dismissing an entire dish because it includes one ingredient they don’t like.

For breakfast, we like to make breakfast burritos. We make a batch of hash browns, brown up some sausage, fry or bake some bacon, and scramble some eggs. If we’re really feeling in the mood, we might grill some onions, and some red and/or green bell peppers. That all gets set out with some shredded Cheddar cheese, flour and/or corn tortillas, and salsa.

When the Scoutmaster of my son’s Boy Scout troop cooks for the adult leaders, he likes to make us chorizo con huevos. It’s a breakfast burrito but instead of regular sausage, he uses chorizo, which is a Spanish pork sausage that can be seasoned with dried smoked red peppers, Spanish smoked paprika, and/or chili peppers. It really gives breakfast a kick! It’s great on a cold morning because that spicy chorizo lights a nice warm fire in your belly.


Another breakfast bar idea is to make a large pot of oatmeal and your “bar” could include cow’s milk, coconut milk, almond milk, nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, chocolate spread, peanut butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and other spices, etc.

How about a chili bar with diced onions, green onions, multiple shredded cheeses, sour cream, diced peppers, jalapenos, rice, bacon bits, crackers, tortillas, corn bread, etc. If your group includes vegetarians, you could set out a meatless chili and then serve some cooked proteins on the side for us carnivores.

Baked potato bars are fun with butter, grated cheeses, sour cream, chives, onions, veggies, bacon bits, chili, etc.

For foil wraps, we set out a couple different proteins (cut into small cubes), sauces, veggies, seasonings, etc.

Fractured tacos are another camp favorite. Start with tortilla chips and layer on whatever you want including cooked beef, cooked chicken, refried beans, grated cheese, onions, peppers, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, etc.

Sometimes its just fun to set out a bar and let folks build their own meal. But if you have to work around a lot of different tastes, this is definitely the way to go.

Some assembly required!

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Meatball Sub Pull-Aparts


Let me just say right up front, this is crazy good! Okay, now that we have that out of the way, we can continue.

This is a warm, hearty meal that tastes amazing. From the rich and flavorful Italian meatballs and marinara sauce to the velvety, gooey mozzarella cheese to the fluffy and crunchy bits of French bread, this was so yummy! Serve it with a fresh green Italian or Caesar salad and you have a winner dinner. Everyone loved this.

It is super simple to make. It only has 5 ingredients and it bakes in about 30 minutes. It really is just assemble and bake. I think all my scouting followers out there will really like this one. Even a patrol of young scouts could make this easily.

This recipe calls for store-bought meatballs, jarred marinara, and refrigerated French bread or you could make your own from scratch. In camp, you could bake this in a 12-inch Dutch oven or, at home, you could use a 9×13 casserole dish.

12-inch Dutch oven or 9×13 casserole dish, large bowl, large spoon for mixing and serving, knife, cutting board.

½ bag of Italian meatballs or about 30 golf-ball sized meatballs if you’re making them from scratch
1½ cups marinara sauce
2 cups mozzarella, grated
¼ cup Parmesan, grated
1 tube refrigerated French bread, sliced into medallions and then halved

If you’re looking for easy clean up, you could foil line your Dutch oven for this one. Spray the foil or the casserole dish with cooking spray. Start 25 coals in a chimney.

Unwrap the refrigerated French bread loaf and slice into medallions about ½-inch thick and then cut each medallion in half. In a large bowl, add the meatballs, marinara sauce, French bread bits, and about half of the mozzarella and toss together like a salad until everything is coated with the marinara sauce. Pour it all into the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan on top.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for about 30 minutes or until it’s brown and bubbly.

Serves 6-8

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

Recipe for Comfortable Camping


Do you camp or glamp? Personally, I don’t care for the word “glamping” because the word is formed by combining glamorous and camping, which is not how I camp. However, I do believe in being comfortable. I want to sleep warm. I don’t want to sleep on rocks, twigs or lumpy ground. I want to eat good food. I don’t want to subsist on pop tarts and hotdogs. I don’t want to be soggy and cold. Above all, I want to be outdoors and I want to have fun!

So, how do you make your camping experience more comfortable? First rule of survival is shelter. Let’s talk good shelter.

Invest in a Good Tent

Before you buy a tent, determine what your needs are. Does it need to be wide enough to accommodate your cot? Do you want to be able to stand up in it? Is it for car camping or backpacking? Will you need a 4-season tent for year-round camping or will a 3-season (spring/summer/fall) meet your needs? Will you be tenting alone or with a buddy or with your family? Does it have adequate space for you and all your gear? However many the tent manufacturer says the tent sleeps, I always divide that by 1.5 or 2 because they’re counting only bodies, which have been crammed in like sardines. Whether it’s your backpack or your duffle bag, you’ve probably got about a body’s worth of gear.

When you’re ready to buy, don’t settle for a cheap, no-name tent at one of those bargain warehouses. Get a quality tent from a reputable manufacturer. Read the reviews. Was it field tested? My very first tent was an REI tent that was tested on Mt. Everest and that tent was solid and served me well for many years. Does the tent have a rain fly that covers the entire tent all the way to the ground? Are the zippers exposed or do they have protective flaps to prevent rain from coming through the zipper? Does it have good venting to minimize condensation? All these things are important to keep you warm and dry and comfortable so you can have a good night’s rest.

Build a Good Bed

A cot or portable bed (an air mattress on a fold-up frame) is going to get you up off the cold, hard ground. It will feel more like a real at-home bed. There is space underneath for gear. I love my cot. It is so comfortable and I sleep much better than I would with a pad on the ground. I can sit on my cot to take my boots off. If a cot is a little too firm for you, you could add a small air mattress or a cot pad for a little more cushion.

What you sleep in is just as important as what you sleep on, so let’s talk sleeping bags. Buy a bag that is rated down to the coldest overnight temperature you will experience. Do you prefer a mummy bag or something a little more roomy? I tend to get claustrophobic in a mummy bag, so I use a full-size rectangle-shaped bag, which is not as warm as a mummy bag. For added insulation, I fold a wool blanket in half and place it under my sleeping bag, and I use a fleece blanket on top of my bag. If it’s a really cold night, I’ll fill a hot water bottle and put that in the foot of my bag for all night toasty toes.

Always bring comfortable pillows. It’s no fun to go camping and wake up with a cramped, kinked neck from sleeping on flat pillows that you don’t normally sleep on. When I was in college, I was in a car accident that seriously messed up my neck, so sleeping comfortable and taking care of my neck are critical for me. I use the same pillow I sleep on when I’m home.

Other Creature Comforts

Adding a rug beside the bed is so much more comfortable on the tootsies than a bare tent floor. It just adds that extra level of comfort to a tent that makes it feel warm and cozy. I also put down a small rug right inside my tent door so that I can step in onto the rug and remove my wet, dirty boots. Not only does it keep my tent much cleaner, but I’m not stepping in wet spots as I move about my tent.

If you have room in your tent, bring a small portable table to use beside the bed. It’s great for holding lanterns, radios, flashlights, water, eye glasses, alarm clock and any other thing you like to have at arm’s reach at night.

Lanterns are nice, but I like having an overhead light. I use a small battery-powered light that I clip to the center loop on the inside of the tent with a carabiner. It illuminates the whole tent. If I need brighter or more focused light, then I use a lantern or a flashlight.

Your shelter is important. It’s your refuge in a storm. It’s a warm, dry place to relax and rest so you’re at your best for all those exciting, outdoor activities. Are any of these glamorous? Nope. All these make for a comfortable camping experience so we can relax, which is why most of us go camping—to relax and get away. Have you planned your next great outdoor getaway?


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

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