Monthly Archives: November 2016

Cranberries are Crazy Good for You

cranberry-02-690pxI knew cranberries were good for you, but I didn’t realize they were such a super food. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I grew up on a cranberry farm in Western Washington, which is where I learned to love these tart tiny fruits. I thought I knew everything about them, like how they are packed with vitamin C and are good for your kidneys and your urinary tract. But I realize now that I was only scratching the surface.

A glossy, scarlet red, very tart berry, the cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium, another well-known super food. (Both berries also belong to the food family called Ericaceae, also known as the heath or heather family.) Like blueberries, cranberries can still be found growing as wild shrubs in northern Europe, northern Asia, and North America. When cultivated, however, cranberries are grown on low trailing vines atop great sandy bogs. That’s how we grew them on the Washington coast.

While cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections, recent studies suggest that they may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.

One way they do all this is their ability to fight germs. Bacteria doesn’t stand a chance against cranberries. Several studies show that cranberries can help ward off urinary tract infections (in some cases, even those caused by strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Cranberries also seem to thwart h. pylori (associated with stomach ulcers) and various gum-disease-causing germs.

Antioxidants in cranberries like oligomeric proanthocyanidins, peonidin, anthocyanidin flavonoids, quercetin and cyaniding help prevent cardiovascular diseases by fighting bad cholesterol plaque forming in the blood vessels and the heart.

Cranberries also contain high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins that can protect us against cancer, neurological diseases and aging, inflammatory diseases, bacterial infections and diabetes.

Cranberries are crammed with vitamin C. One cup of cranberry juice can deliver up to 100% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Just make sure to look for a label that says, “100% juice.”

There is evidence that the vitamin C found in cranberries, along with other antioxidants, can help hypertension. In one study, people who drank 2 glasses of low-sugar cranberry juice daily saw a significant drop in their blood pressure.

Cranberries are loaded with water-soluble fiber (the kind that keeps you feeling full). One cup (cooked or raw) contains about 5g fiber and 50 calories, while 1/2 cup of dried has 3.5g and 187 calories.

So, now that you know just how good for you they are, how do you consume more of them?

Juice ‘em. Drink straight or mix with other fruit juices or other beverages. Cranberry juice is also good spiked. Take advantage of cranberries’ high acid content (they have a pH range of 2.3 to 2.5) and use fresh juice from the berries in place of vinegar in salad dressings and marinades.

Try ‘em dried. Toss 1 to 2 tablespoons into oatmeal, salads, couscous, or quinoa. Look for dried berries that are free of preservatives, since they can degrade the berries’ antioxidants. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how they make an amazing addition to any trail mix or just mix dried cranberries with lightly roasted and salted nuts for a delicious snack.

Cook ‘em. Cranberry relish really perks up sandwiches. The berries also add a bright accent to baked goods, wild rice, and meat dishes, especially pork and turkey. We pair them with Swedish meatballs in place of their cousin, the lingonberry. And, cranberries pair amazingly with white chocolate! Just sayin’….

Eat ‘em fresh. During the fall harvest season, we used to pluck them straight off the vine and munch on them while we worked. To balance their extreme tartness, combine fresh cranberries with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries.

For an easy-to-make salad that will immediately become a holiday favorite, place 2 cups fresh berries in your blender or food processor along with 1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, a quartered skinned orange, a sweet apple, and a handful or two of walnuts or pecans. Blend till well mixed but still chunky. Transfer to a large bowl.

A fruit with a short season, fresh cranberries are harvested between Labor Day and Halloween and appear in markets from October through December. Choose berries that have a bright red color, and that are plump and firm to the touch. Cranberries with a deeper red color contain more pigmented antioxidants. Be careful not to use any discolored, bruised or mushy cranberries as they can develop mold and they can transfer it to other berries. Rinse them well before using.

Fresh cranberries will keep for up to 2 months, or cooked for about a month. In both cases, seal tight and refrigerate. They also freeze really well. Once frozen, cranberries may be kept for several years. To freeze, spread fresh cranberries out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. In a couple of hours, the fully frozen berries will be ready to transfer to a freezer bag or a container. Don’t forget to date the bag or container before returning to the freezer.

Now that you know how crazy good for you cranberries can be, don’t just limit them to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Eat them all year long.

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Categories: Under the Lid | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s on Your List?!


Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is only a week away and, before we know it, it will be Christmas. What’s on your Santa List and have you been naughty or nice this year?!

When crafting my annual letter to Santa, I always try to include something that will improve my camping and/or outdoor cooking experience. Because I camp nearly every other weekend three seasons a year, I want to be as comfortable as possible. I also spend a lot of time in my camp kitchen and I want to make sure it’s in the best shape possible for my budget.

Now is a great time to assess your camping and camp cooking supplies and needs. Do you have tents, cots, or sleeping bags that are getting old and need to be replaced? Would you like to add a new Dutch oven to the mix? How’s your camp stove? Does it need to be replaced or upgraded? Do you need any new toys? Take stock of what you got and what you need. The holidays are when we tend to give ourselves permission to make those larger purchases. Now is a great time to up your camping and outdoor cooking game.

Recently, I’ve noticed that my back has begun to complain while bending and tending to my Dutch ovens that are usually sitting on the ground so I’m thinking of adding a Dutch oven table to my list this year.

Dutch oven tables are made of sturdy, durable steel and will support the weight of 2-4 Dutch ovens, depending on the size of your ovens. You place your coals directly on the table and then set your ovens on top of the coals. This raises your ovens to a comfortable height. I looked at Lodge, Cabela’s, and Camp Chef. They all offer a three-sided windbreak although height of the windbreak varies. They also feature adjustable legs for level cooking, and they collapse down for easy transport. There are subtle differences in overall dimensions, weight, and price.

I would love to upgrade my little propane camp stove to a large Camp Chef 2 or 3 burner stove. These durable, versatile stoves pack enough power in their 30,000 BTU burners to boil water and cook food lickety split! And, because they belong to Camp Chef’s 14” cooking system, you can get all kinds of accessories to go with them like flat-top griddles, BBQ grill boxes, and even pizza ovens.

It would also be nice to have a larger pop up canopy. When it rains, and it frequently does here in the Northwest, it’s very difficult to get my entire kitchen under the canopy and still have room to maneuver. It would be nice to have a 12×12 or a 15×15.

On the smaller scale, I’d like to have a collapsible dish drying rack to make clean up easier.

I need a new lantern or two for my cook shelter. I love the convenience and safety of a battery-powered lantern, but they just don’t put out the light like a propane-powered lantern, which is a little more delicate and higher maintenance.

I also think it would be fun to have a laser temperature gauge. When I’m teaching youth and talking about managing their heat, it would be nice to be able to actually show them just how hot their griddle or pan is compared to what it should be.

So what about you? Is any of your equipment old, worn out or broken, and need replacing? Are there any upgrades or improvements you can make? Now’s the time to get it on “The List.”

So, assess your camp kitchen and determine what you need to get cooking better or cooking more in the outdoors? And, if you come across anything good, let me know so I can get it added to my list!

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Categories: Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vegetarian Three-Bean Chili


A couple weeks ago, my daughter and I taught outdoor cooking to some amazing Girl Scout adult volunteers and teens. This vegetarian three-bean chili is one of the things we made. I promised them I would get it posted to the blog and here it is! We also made Cookie’s Cornbread and Granny Apple Crisp.


This is a hearty chili that brings some nice welcomed heat on a cold, rainy day. We played it safe and used a mild salsa; however, you could up the heat by using a medium or hot salsa. You could also switch out one of the green bell peppers for some jalapenos or spicier chilies. So, if you like it hot, this chili could be easily modified to a 5-alarm fire chili! And, if it ends up being too hot for some, they can always cool it down with a little sour cream. Serve it with a good cornbread (I highly recommend mine!) and/or a nice salad with some cooling Ranch dressing. And, don’t forget the tortilla chips!

It occurs to me that if you wanted more of a creamier chili, you could also add a can or two of vegetarian refried beans. We may have to try that the next time we make this.

6-quart stock pot or 12-inch Dutch oven

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 large green bell peppers, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
2½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup mild to hot red salsa
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ salt
½ teaspoon pepper
30 oz kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz pinto beans (vegetarian), rinsed and drained
1½ cups corn kernels

In a 6-quart stock pot or 12-inch Dutch oven, heat oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable stock, salsa, and remaining spices. Simmer, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and corn, and cook, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Adjust your seasoning as desired.

At home, you could also make this in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add everything to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 7 on low.

Ladle into bowls and top with green onion, cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Serves about 6.

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!




Categories: Main Dishes, One Pot, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KISS – Keep it Simple Sundays


Our camping/scouting weekends typically look something like this: We roll in on a Friday afternoon or Friday night and we set up camp. We try to keep dinner prep pretty easy (30 minutes or less) so we have plenty of time for a campfire. Saturday is filled with activities and our heartier, bigger meals. Dutch ovens tend to get a workout on Saturdays. Sunday, after breakfast, we break down and hit the road for home. Sometimes we try to cram in a few more activities Sunday morning but, for the most part, it’s a break-fast and break-camp kinda morning.

So, for Sunday mornings we like to keep it simple with easy, no mess, no clean up, breakfasts that still fill our bellies without filling the dishpan. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep it simple Sundays.

Instant Oatmeal and Instant Cream o’ Wheat Packets (just add hot water)

Bagels and Cream Cheese (I like to toast my bagel over the campfire)

Muffins, Danish and Donuts (oh my)


Nutty-Os and Granola


Deviled Eggs

If we make a morning campfire, we’ll cook sausages on sticks or wrapped in foil or potatoes wrapped in foil.

If I do make something in the Dutch oven, I try to keep it easy with little to no prep so I’m not dirtying any dishes and I foil line the Dutch oven so there is no clean up there either. Apple Raisin Monkey Bread and Pecan Sticky Bun Bits are always popular. Baked Oatmeal, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Granny Apple Crisp also make great breakfasts.

monkey_bread_apple_raisin_IMG_1279_690pxApple Raisin Monkey Bread

pecan_sticky_bun_bitsPecan Sticky Bun Bits

BakedOatmeal09_IMG_1034_690pxBaked Oatmeal

CoffeeCake07_IMG_1031_690pxBlueberry Coffee Cake

granny_apple_crisp_img_2034_690pxGranny Apple Crisp

There are lots of ways to have a good, filling breakfast without creating a mountain of dishes that need to be washed. It makes it easier to pack up your chuck box clean and dry before heading home.

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!

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

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