Monthly Archives: August 2017

Camp Kitchen Setups

When we camp, we eat well. I wouldn’t call it gourmet, but it’s healthy (most of the time), balanced, nutritious, and very satisfying. And, we’re constantly trying to change things up. We each have our go-to recipes and our specialties, but we’re always on the hunt for something different. Just like we change our camping locations between beach, mountains, lake, etc., and we change our activities between biking, fishing, canoeing, etc., so we change up our camp menus. It’s all in the spirit of keeping it interesting. None of us like to settle for the same old stuff. All it takes is a little planning, a little culinary ambition, and a good camp kitchen setup, and you, too, can cook like a chef and eat like a king or a queen.

Here’s what I recommend for a good camp kitchen setup:

Chuck Box

You need all your cooking essentials organized and stored in one place. A chuck box can be as simple and economical as a large plastic tote or as complex as a hand-crafted wooden box (DIY tutorials are widely available online). Ideally, your chuck box has compartments or smaller containers for your smaller cooking utensils. It should include all the basic things you need from pots and bowls to knives and vegetable peelers. I always pack heavy-duty aluminum foil for making foil packets. It’s fun to lay out a selection of proteins, veggies, spices, and sauces and everyone assembles their own dinner and cooks it over a fire or coals. For a complete list of what my chuck box includes, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 1-Your Camp Kitchen.”

Stove

A reliable stove system is central to every serious camp kitchen. Depending on the amount of packing space in your vehicle, you can decide to go with a compact two-burner system that runs on a one-pound propane canister or you can equip yourself with a larger and more powerful two- or three-burner system that runs on a standard 20-pound propane tank. Generally, you just want to make sure that each burner on the stove you select puts out at least 10,000 BTU/hr, which is the average output of a household stove burner. A number of the larger models that run on standard 20-pound propane tanks will crank out an impressive 30,000 BTU/hr per burner, providing you with an immense range of culinary ability. Many models can also be accessorized with grill boxes and griddles, which make serving up a stack of pancakes or juicy T-bone steaks a simple task.

Cooler

One or two quality hard-shell coolers will insulate and protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. For safe food handling, it’s important that your iced-cooler keep your foods at or below 40°F. If you can, do your prep work before leaving home. Label your sealed bags of pre-chopped veggies and meats specific to each meal, which allows you to start cooking with minimal prep time. If you plan on packing lots of canned and bottled beverages, consider bringing a second beverage-specific cooler. Beverage coolers are opened and closed frequently, which allows chilled air to quickly escape. If your food is stored in a separate cooler that is opened less frequently, your temperature-sensitive foods will stay chilled for a longer period of time. For more cooler packing tips, see my blog posts, “Chillin’ With Your Cooler” and “Think Inside the Box Part 3-Your Camp Refrigerator.”

Food Tote

Just like a cooler, a hard-sided plastic tote will protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. It will also protect your food from sun and rain and help keep critters out in the middle of the night. Even if you are just making hamburgers, no one wants a bun that’s been flattened like a pancake. For more Food Tote tips, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 2-Your Camp Pantry.”

Table

Even if you do the bulk of your prep work at home, you will still need a place to assemble and prepare your meals. A sturdy camp table is a must-have for your camp kitchen. Not only does it provide valuable work space, but you can also use it like a buffet table.

Shelter

We usually pack a pop up for a cook shelter. It provides shade when it’s sunny and protection from the rain when it is not, which is most of the time! I like to string a small clothesline along one side for washing cloths and drying towels. Sometimes I attach a tarp to one side and stake out the tarp to provide added shade for my coolers.

Extras

In my opinion, an outdoor kitchen wouldn’t be complete without at least one cast iron Dutch oven. From casseroles to cakes, a Dutch oven will allow you to bake just about anything you can bake in your oven at home. A Dutch oven gives you the versatility to prepare a much wider range of dishes. Its rugged durability and its ability to evenly distribute heat, allowing you to cover it with charcoal briquettes, position it in hot coals near an open fire, or place it on the stove top, make it a valuable component of your camp kitchen. For more information about what you need to support your Dutch ovens, see my blog post, “The Right Tool for the Right Job.”

So, there you have it. A good camp kitchen setup will go along way toward making every camping trip a successful one.

What’s in your Chuck box?

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Artisan Bread in Camp

There is something almost euphoric about the smell of fresh baked bread. When you smell it in camp it is downright magical.

This is a simple, rustic bread that goes together easy and requires no kneading. Yes, you read correctly, a yeast dough that requires no kneading. I used one of my 12-inch-deep Dutch ovens because I wanted the extra height. You could also use a regular 12-inch Dutch oven, but the top might get a little extra browned. You may have to adjust your coals.

Speaking of coals, I didn’t use the standard 2:1 ratio of coals (2 coals on the lid for every coal underneath). I wanted more heat coming from the top so the underside wouldn’t burn. I used a 3:1 ratio (3 coals on the lid for every coal underneath) and I think that is perfect.

This bread has a nice, crusty outside and the inside is soft and fluffy. At home, you could start it the night before and bake it for dinner the next day. In camp, you could start it in the morning and bake it for dinner that night. If you are making this at home in a conventional oven, bake it in a Dutch oven with the lid on for 30 minutes and then remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes to brown the outside.

Serve it warm, fresh out of the oven with some softened butter, and you’ll have some happy campers.

Equipment
12-inch-deep Dutch oven, mixing bowl, measuring cup and spoons, wooden spoon.

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon dry yeast (active dry or highly active dry work best; I used active dry)
1 ½ cups lukewarm water (110-115 degrees)
Extra flour for your board and hands

Prep
On your propane stove, gently warm some water to 110-115 degrees. If you overshoot, just remove from the heat and allow it to cool. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a shaggy, but cohesive dough. You’ll know when you get there.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in a safe place protected from critters. Let the dough sit for 8-24 hours. The dough will bubble up and rise.

About an hour and a half before you want to eat the bread, start 40 coals (if you are using 12-inch Dutch oven and not a 12-inch-deep, adjust your coals down). Heat your Dutch oven to 450°F, using 30 coals on the lid and 10 underneath, for 30 minutes.

While your Dutch oven preheats, turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and, with floured hands, form the dough into a ball. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest. Start a fresh batch of coals.

After the 30 minutes are up, with floured hands, place the bread dough into the preheated Dutch oven. I placed my bread dough onto a piece of parchment paper and then lowered the dough on the paper into the oven. Refresh the coals. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Remove the bread and place on a cutting board, letting it rest for about 5 minutes. Slice and serve!

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!

 

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Teach Them While They’re Young

9-year-old Alex sautéing onions for Chicken Mini Pies.

Back in the old days (and by that I mean only a few generations ago), it took a lot of work to get a meal on the table and children, by necessity, had to help out. Our great-grandmothers didn’t have fancy shmancy mixers and food processors and bread machines. Their local grocery stores didn’t have aisle upon aisle of packaged processed foods nor could they just go online and order a meal in a box delivered to the homestead by Pony Express. Bread had to be kneaded, fruits and vegetables had to be chopped, and meats had to be prepared all by hand. So, the more hands you had helping, the faster a meal could be prepared.

While children were in the kitchen helping, they were learning valuable life skills. In addition to learning how to cook, how to tend a fire, and how to use knives, children learned organization, leadership, and planning skills. They learned responsibility. And, when children help in the food preparation, they are more likely to eat it, which meant fewer picky eaters.

But somewhere along the way, we stopped including and instructing our children in meal preparation and now we have adults who don’t know how to cook unless it comes out of a box or from the freezer or uses a microwave. I know whole families who eat out three to five times a week. I know kids who believe the only kind of macaroni and cheese is the orange kind that comes out of a blue box.

I understand that we’re all very busy and sometimes it is just easier and faster to do it ourselves. We tell our children, “You run along and play and I’ll get dinner on the table.” I get that. Been there, done that. However, this needs to be the exception and not the rule. We need to get our children into the kitchen on a regular basis whether it’s at home or in camp so they can learn and practice these valuable life skills.

On my Resources page is an Outdoor Cooking Skill Progression, and while it is geared for outdoor cooking it could be easily adapted to the home kitchen.

6-year-old Alex is starting a batch of chocolate chip cookies while his 8-year-old sister Amelia watches.

Even a small child can sit at a table and tear lettuce for a salad or add already measured ingredients to a bowl or assemble sandwiches. As they get into elementary school, teach them knife safety and knife skills. Start them cutting soft foods and progress them up to harder foods. Teach them fire safety and start them at the stove simply heating up a can of soup or making their beloved orange macaroni and cheese from the blue box. When they develop some hand-eye coordination, teach them the fine art of pancake flipping.

Things won’t be done perfectly, and spills and messes may happen. Clean up may take a little longer sometimes. But the skills they are learning will last them their whole life and you’ll be creating fond memories of your time together in the kitchen.

Some of our family’s best memories are in the kitchen cooking together. We started out bumping butts and stepping on each other’s toes as we moved around the kitchen. Today, if you were to observe me and my daughter in our morning routine of making coffee, taking vitamins, and assembling lunches, it would look like a finely choreographed dance as we just instinctively move around each other. Occasionally, we still collide and it usually causes a giggle or two or sometimes results in a mess on the floor, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Someday, when I am old and gray and can no longer hold a knife steady in my hand, I know that I will be well fed by my son and my daughter who both know their way around a kitchen.

Thank you Sonya, who commented on a recent post and inspired me to write this one. Keep up the good fight, girl. Good cooking skills are life skills and important ones to have.

Teach them while they are young and someday they will thank you or, better yet, they will prepare an amazing meal for you.

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From left is cousin Bobby Lynn, Alex, and Amelia at Lake Wenatchee State Park.

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Orange Creamsicle Dump Cake

This cake tastes just like an orange creamsicle. It was a hit at the Scoutmaster Dinner.

Our scoutmaster, Mr. Murray, first made this dump cake last summer while we were at Fire Mountain Scout Camp. It was a hit with the troop. A couple weeks ago, he decided to make it for our annual Scoutmaster Dinner, and he kicked it up a notch by adding Triple Sec, an orange-flavored liquor made from the dried peels of bitter and/or sweet oranges.

Triple Sec may be consumed neat as a digestif or on the rocks, but it is more often used as an ingredient in a variety of cocktails, such as sangria, margarita, Kamikaze, White Lady, Long Island Iced Tea, Sidecar, Skittle Bomb, Corpse Reviver #2, and Cosmopolitan. There’s your bartending tip for the day.

If you are at all worried about the alcohol, it bakes out and just leaves behind orange flavor. If you don’t happen to have a bottle of Triple Sec sitting in your cupboard, you could also just leave it out. There is plenty of orange flavor in the soda pop; the Triple Sec just adds a little extra pop of orange.

If you wanted to, you could also add fruit in the bottom and turn this into a cobbler. Choose a fruit that would complement the orange flavor of the cake.

When we’re camping, it’s always fun to throwdown with Mr. Murray and Mrs. Stark. Between the three of us, we can produce some pretty good camp grub. Here’s how Mr. Murray made his Orange Creamsicle Dump Cake.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven or 9×13 baking dish, mixing bowl, rubber spatula.

Ingredients
1 white cake mix (Mr. Murray chose Betty Crocker French Vanilla)
1 12-ounce bottle of Fanta Orange Soda
2-4 ounces of Triple Sec orange liquor

Prep
Line your Dutch oven with foil (if you choose to) and spray it with cooking spray. Start 25 coals. In a bowl, mix together the dry cake mix, orange soda, and the orange liquor until just combined. Be careful, it may get foamy. Pour cake and orange soda mixture into the Dutch oven.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 35-40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 8-10

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Gourmet Camp Cooking

Throughout the year, our Boy Scout troop holds fundraisers. The more fundraising we can do, the fewer out-of-pocket expenses there are for our scouts and our scout families, and we never want money to be the reason why a boy doesn’t scout.

One of the events we do is an auction and one of the live auction items every year is what we call the Scoutmaster Dinner. The dinner is hosted at the home of one of our volunteers and the dinner is completely prepared and served to guests by our troop’s scoutmasters. Over the years, we have had some pretty amazing dinners because some of our scoutmasters, including yours truly, are darned good cooks.

This year, we decided to make it an entirely camp-cooked meal. We wanted to show that you can make a gourmet meal in camp so we pulled out all the stops. Our menu was filet mignon, lobster mac and cheese, grilled vegetables, garden salad, fresh baked breads, and for dessert Scoutmaster Murray made an orange soda orange liquor dump cake and I made death by chocolate. For beverages, we had a peach sangria and lemonade.

I was very busy so I didn’t get all the pictures I had hoped to. I believe at one point we had six Dutch ovens going! You could make this meal using a griddle or a grill, Dutch ovens, box ovens, and foil packets. It’s very doable in camp. Everything tasted amazing.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon

Fresh Baked Bread

Lobster Mac & Cheese

Orange Soda & Orange Liquor Dump Cake

Death by Chocolate

Peach Sangria and Lemonade

It was a great evening with good friends, good conversation, lots of laughter and an amazing meal. So, don’t be afraid to cook something fancy in camp. It might take a little more effort, but you won’t regret it.

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