Snacks and appetizers for Cracker Barrel or any time you want a little something extra.

Cheese Spread! Don’t Forget the Crackers!

We tend to burn a lot of calories on campouts. We’re playing and/or working hard. In addition to our 3 squares a day, at the end of the day, we’re looking for that bedtime snack to tide us over until breakfast. We call it a cracker barrel. It’s also a place to gather and talk about the day and share stories around the campfire.

For cracker barrel, we like to keep things simple. No cooking and no cleanup because who wants to be doing dishes late at night? Finger foods are the way to go and this make-ahead cheese spread is perfect. It’s simple to make (about 15 minutes) and brings an element of fanciness to a campfire cracker barrel. Folks just don’t expect it and that makes it fun to serve.

To learn more about the tradition of the cracker barrel or for more cracker barrel ideas, please read my blog post: “Evening Cracker Barrel and the Art of Snacking.”

This cheese spread can be made at home before you go. It can be kept chilled up to two days, so I would make it no earlier than Thursday night for a Saturday night cracker barrel. Serve it with crackers, sliced bread or crudités, which is a fancy French word for sliced or whole raw vegetables. I like to serve it with crackers because, growing up, cheese and crackers was one of my dad’s favorite snacks, and that’s a fond memory for me.

We’ve spread it on Wheat Thins, Ritz, buttery club crackers, and plain old saltines. There really isn’t a cracker this cheese spread doesn’t go with. My favorite is the Wheat Thin or some kind of whole wheat or whole grain cracker.

For serving, you can shape it into a ball or a log, or smush it into a shallow plastic container. A shallow container will give the spread more surface area for the chives, parsley, and peppers you’re going to sprinkle on top. You want folks to be able to get a nice combination of everything on their vessel.

I use a 25-ounce shallow Glad container that holds half a batch nicely and allows plenty of room to sprinkle on the toppings (pictured above). If I need to serve a whole batch or more, I use multiple containers. I transport the toppings separately and sprinkle on when I’m ready to serve.

If you’re making this at home for a holiday party or a family gathering, you can line a small, 6-cup Bundt pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture into that and chill for 1 to 48 hours. Unmold it onto a serving platter and cover it with the chives, parsley, and peppers for a festive looking wreath. Crackers, bread, and crudités can be arranged around the wreath or served in baskets, bowls or platters on the side.

This recipe calls for pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, which is a trademarked brand. Peppadews are hot, very sweet peppers that have been pickled. The heat is similar to a jalapeño and they are bright red, which gives the cheese spread a very festive look. Peppadew peppers are hard to find, depending on where you live. I have to order them from Amazon. In a pinch, we’ve used Mezzetta sweet cherry peppers, but they’re not quite the same. Whichever you use, I recommend removing the seeds because they are very hard. Leftover peppers can be added to the crudités or you can save them and add them to other dishes. They are great on a pizza.

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded firm cheese, such as Cheddar, Pepper Jack or Colby
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pickled piquanté peppers, such as Peppadew, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
Crackers, sliced bread or crudités, for serving

In a food processor or a medium mixing bowl, if you’re mixing it by hand, combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. If you’re using a food processor, transfer the mixture into a medium bowl. Fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the chopped peppers.

Form the mixture into a ball or log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Or, smush it into a shallow plastic container or a 6-cup Bundt pan lined with plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

At home, if you’re using the Bundt mold, uncover and invert the cheese mold onto a serving platter. If you formed it into a ball or log, unwrap and transfer to a serving platter (in camp, you could use a large paper plate).

In camp, if you’re using a shallow plastic container, you can serve directly out of the container. Sprinkle with the chives and parsley to completely coat the cheese mixture, and garnish with the reserved 2 tablespoons peppers.

Serve with crackers, sliced bread or crudités and you’ll need a knife or spreader.

Serves 16 to 20.

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Make Your Own Meatballs

Meatballs are fun and always seem a little fancy. Whether they are classing up a simple meat sauce, serving as a tasty appetizer, or floating in a savory soup like the Miso Noodle Soup I posted last week, meatballs simultaneously add a bit of playfulness and elegance to a dish.

Making your own meatballs is easy and fun, and the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Here is a mix and match guide to making your own meatballs. And, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to miss out on the fun. You, too, can enjoy a little meatball madness.

You could omit or substitute the egg and/or breadcrumbs. They help hold the meatballs together, but they are not required. It will depend on your combination of ingredients. For example, the meatballs for the Miso Noodle Soup are made with ground pork, honey, sriracha, salt, and pepper, and they hold together very well.

Ingredients for a Basic Meatball
1 pound protein of your choice, ground
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Choose a single protein or a combination like beef and lamb or beef and pork (1 pound total): beef, turkey, pork, chicken, lamb, or 2 (15-ounce) cans beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed.

Add at least 2 (1 tablespoon total): oregano, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, honey, sriracha, chili powder, taco seasoning, grated parmesan, or grated cheddar.

Vegetables and Herbs
Add at least 2 (3/4 cup total): grated onion, grated carrot, minced garlic, citrus zest, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, chopped rosemary, or chopped thyme.

In a bowl, mash all the ingredients together. I like to glove up and use my hands, which are the two best tools in the kitchen. (For the beans, if you use a food processor to mash them, be careful not to over process or they will fall apart).

Divide the meatball mix into 16 blobs (technical term) and form/roll each blob into a round little ball.

Arrange meatballs on a baking sheet and bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, or they can be (gently) dropped directly into a simmering soup or sauce and cooked 5-10 minutes or until done.

Makes 16, nicely sized, meatballs.

Now it’s time to experiment and try different combinations. Have some fun and make some magic, I mean, meatballs!

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Dutch Oven Nachos

On our last scout campout, Scoutmaster Murray was cooking for the scoutmasters. For lunch on Saturday, he made two Dutch ovens of nachos with turkey chorizo, diced white onion, cilantro, diced tomatoes, and lots of cheese. They were a yummy lunch, filling but not too heavy, which was perfect going into a busy afternoon of teaching outdoor skills.

Nachos make a great meal or an appetizer. They are easy, fun, and completely customizable. You can build them any way you want to. They are great for an evening cracker barrel because they are finger food so there are no dishes to wash late at night.

If you line the Dutch oven with foil, when the nachos are done, you can carefully lift them out of the oven using the foil. Set the foil “bowl” directly on the picnic table and spread out the foil. Campers can just dive right in and start pulling off clumps of loaded tortillas.

The recipe below is for fully loaded nachos. While the list of ingredients is by no means comprehensive, it includes a lot of options. Use some or all of them. Use more or less of something. Treat this as just a guide for helping you decide what you want on your nachos. And I’ve included all the classics to serve with your nachos. Have fun!

12-inch Dutch oven, large skillet.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef, turkey, chicken, or pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning, or your own mix
12 ounces tortilla chips
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4-ounce) can black olives, sliced
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces salsa
8 ounces guacamole
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans, heated

Line a 12-Dutch oven with foil and start 25 coals.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add ground meat and garlic. Cook until meat is browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the meat as it cooks. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain any excess fat.

Place about half of the tortilla chips in the Dutch oven, spreading evenly. Sprinkle on 1 cup of cheese and add the remaining tortilla chips. Top with 1 cup of cheese, ground meat mixture, black beans, corn, tomatoes, black olives, and remaining cheese.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately, topped with onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. Serve with refried beans, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

Serves 8

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Mozzarella Stuffed Pizza Bombs


These are so good. When we made these for the first time, they disappeared in about 5 minutes. They are best hot out of the oven while the cheese is still gooey. I’m not sure how they taste cold or reheated because they never last that long. Make sure you serve them with warm marinara sauce. They are a hit all by themselves, but dipping them in warm marinara knocks them out of the park!

These would make a great pre-dinner appetizer or as a side dish or as part of an evening cracker barrel. If you’re making these for an evening cracker barrel and want easy clean up, you could foil line your Dutch oven, but be sure to liberally grease the foil.

If you made enough of these, they could even be a main dish. To make them even more pizza-like you could wrap the mozzarella in a slice of pepperoni or Canadian bacon before wrapping them in the pizza dough. I just might have to try that.

They are a bit messy to make. Your hands end up covered in the butter-garlic mixture. I would have some hot soapy water standing by or use disposable food serving gloves.

You can make these using fresh oregano and garlic cloves or you can use dried minced garlic and dried oregano. I use dried oregano and dried, minced garlic and hand mix it.

I make a single batch in my 10-inch Dutch oven in camp or in my cast-iron skillet at home (it’s about the same size). I have not tried larger batches yet, but I imagine that if you doubled it, you could squeeze them into a 12-inch Dutch oven. They’d be cozy but it’s okay if they touch. If you do and it works, let me know.

I wonder how many I could squeeze into my 16-inch Dutch oven?! Hmmmm….

10-inch Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet.

8 cloves of garlic, fresh, or 2 teaspoons dried, minced
1 tablespoon oregano, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
9 ounces of pizza dough or 1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 ounces of mozzarella, cut into ¾-inch cubes, or 8 mozzarella sticks, quartered
Extra olive oil and butter for greasing the Dutch oven or skillet
Marinara sauce for dipping, warmed

At home in a food processor, combine garlic cloves, oregano, melted butter, olive oil, and salt until well mixed. Load into a container for transport to camp in the cooler. You could do this in camp without the food processor by just mincing the garlic and herbs by hand or using dried, minced garlic and dried oregano.

In camp, using a mixture of olive oil and butter, liberally grease a Dutch oven (if making these at home, you could use a cast-iron skillet).

On a flat, floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 9-by-9-inch square that’s a ¼ inch thick. Brush with the melted garlic-butter mixture and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equal-sized squares. Place one piece of mozzarella or ½ of a stick (2 quartered pieces) into the middle of each piece of dough. Wrap the mozzarella up in the dough and seal the edges completely. In the Dutch oven or skillet, arrange all the balls, seam side down, so they’re touching. Brush each dough ball thoroughly with the garlic-butter mixture.

Bake in a 375°F oven, using 16 coals on the lid and 7 underneath, for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up. Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Serves about 5 as an appetizer, 3-4 as a main dish (because we can’t eat just 3 or 4)

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Evening Cracker Barrel and the Art of Snacking


In scouting, we have a time-honored tradition of the evening cracker barrel where we gather near the end of the day to review the day’s activities and make our plans for the coming day.

The term has its origins in the country stores of the late 19th century, where the barrels of soda crackers ended up being the site of informal discussions between customers. The philosophizing taking place around these cracker barrels would have been, presumably, of the plain and simple sort. This extended use of the term as a modifier is reminiscent of the way in which “water-cooler” came to be used in the phrase “water-cooler conversation” with reference to the chatting and socializing that occurs between office workers in the communal area around a water cooler.

The first, dare I say, official recording of the term occurred in 1863 when General Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson met on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville to plan their strategy. They sat on ration boxes and called that meeting the Cracker-Barrel Conference.

Today, our cracker barrels are informal gatherings that are more social than they are business. And, because we are a food-based culture, we can’t gather without something to snack on. An evening cracker barrel can be as simple as s’mores by the campfire or a spread of meats, cheeses, and crackers, or after dinner Dutch oven desserts. Whatever is served, it is usually simple and unsophisticated. Nothing fancy.

Evening cracker barrels tend to be a mix of savory and sweet. On cold nights, they should include plenty of protein, which helps us to sleep warmer because our bodies have to work a little harder to digest it. They can include items that can be heated over the campfire or pulled straight out of the cooler. The simpler the better because no one wants to do any major cleanup late in the evening. Finger foods are a great way to go because then there are no dishes.

If you make something like a Dutch oven crisp or cobbler, foil line your Dutch oven for easy clean up and go ahead and breakout the disposable paper bowls and plastic silverware (we call that the fine china). Again, no one wants to be doing dishes late at night and you don’t want to leave them for morning because that’s just an open invitation for critters to invade your campsite overnight.

So, what makes good cracker barrel faire? Think appetizers. Little bites with big flavors. All those hors d’oeuvres we nibble on before a meal or at a party are perfect for a cracker barrel. Here are a few ideas:

Deviled Eggs

Meats, Cheese, and Crackers

Cheese Spread, Cheese Ball or Cheese Log

Chips with Salsa, Guacamole, Bean, and/or Queso Dip

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries


Jalepeno Poppers

Egg Rolls


Rice Crispy Treats

Smoked Salmon and Crackers

Hummus and Pita Chips

Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

When planning your cracker barrel, how many nibbles should you have? If your cracker barrel is shortly after dinner, plan on having 6-8 pieces per person. If your cracker barrel is later in the evening, you may want to plan on 12-15 pieces per person. Sometimes we’ll have an early dinner so we’re not cleaning up after it gets dark and a couple of hours can pass between dinner and cracker barrel. Or, if we’re planning a night hike or a late night of star gazing, games or campfire stories, we’ll have a more robust cracker barrel. If the weather is chilly, you’ll want to plan heartier snacks.

Whatever you choose to nibble on, it’s fun to gather with your fellow campers and talk about the day’s adventures and make your plans for the next day, even if all you’re planning is what time to have breakfast!

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Trail Mix and Match

Trail Mix 03 690pxToday is National Trail Mix Day. Known by many names, I grew up calling it GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts), trail mix is a type of snack mix, specifically a combination of dried fruit, nuts, and sometimes chocolate.

Trail mix is considered an ideal snack food for hiking and camping because it is lightweight, easy to store, and nutritious, providing a quick energy boost from the carbohydrates in the dried fruit or granola and sustained energy from fats in nuts. Trail mix is also perfect for sporting activities, field trips, and other high-calorie burning adventures.

The combination of nuts, raisins and chocolate as a trail snack dates back at least to the 1910s, when outdoorsman Horace Kephart recommended it in his popular camping guide. In the 1960s, trail mix was popularized by Paul Hadley of Hadley Fruit Orchards, who developed energy-boosting blends of dried fruit, nuts and seeds and marketed them to hikers in the neighboring San Jacinto Mountains.

However, in recent years, I feel that trail mix has become less of a high energy snack and more of a camp candy, which is a far departure from its original purpose. For trail mix to pack the energy punch that it’s supposed to, it can’t just be all candy. It needs to be primarily carbs, proteins and fats, with a little sugar for that sweet treat.

So long as trail mix includes the key three, the sky is the limit as to what to put in it. That’s another great thing about trail mix; it is definitely not a one-size fits all. It’s very customizable.

So, what makes a great trail mix?

Well, as we’ve already said, it needs to have carbs, proteins, and fats. It needs to have some crunchy bits and some chewy bits. It needs to have some sweet and some savory. And, above all, it needs to have flavor and stuff you like; otherwise, you’re not going to eat it no matter good for you it is.

Let’s explore the world of possibilities. When building your trail mix, include ingredients from each category and you can’t go wrong.

Nuts or Seeds

Good nut choices include almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Higher-calorie macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pine nuts are also good options in moderation. Nuts are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium in check.

For those with nut allergies (or just looking to mix things up), seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts and many are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid, protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Good seed choices include hemp, sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin.

Fruits or Berries

Good choices include dried apricots, pineapple, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, figs, apples, dates, raisins, banana chips, goji berries, strawberries, and mango. Fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible (some varieties, like cranberries, are naturally quite tart and almost always sweetened with cane sugar or apple juice). It’s also pretty easy to make your own dried fruit at home in the oven.

Crunchy Bites

For that little bit of crunch try granola, toasted oats, sesame sticks, pretzels, tortilla chips, shredded wheat squares, air-popped popcorn, puffed rice, corn flakes, whole-grain cereals like Cheerios or Chex, bran flakes, and whole-wheat crackers. Grains add complex carbohydrates for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full. Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium.

Sweet Bites

Round out your trail mix with a sprinkling of something sweet, including M&Ms, chips or nibs (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, carob, butterscotch), gummy candies, chocolate-covered coffee beans, yogurt-covered raisins, mini marshmallows. When choosing chocolate, remember that dark varieties have extra antioxidants. A little bit of sugar is perfectly acceptable and, according to Mary Poppins, “helps the medicine go down.” Just remember to add sugary treats sparingly. They should not be a main component.

Unique Mix-Ins & Savory Extras

Kick it up a notch with coconut flakes, wasabi peas, candied ginger, pork rinds, coffee beans, and seaweed rice crackers. Adding spices is a great way to change up the flavor a bit. Season the mix with sea salt, curry, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or cayenne pepper.

Some Assembly Required

Start by choosing just a couple ingredients from each category. Keep it simple. Don’t pack too many flavors in, but have enough variety to make every handful a little different. Don’t be afraid to mix it up once and a while and add something new or come up with new combinations.

When you’re ready to assemble, combine ingredients and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to prevent spoilage.

When making trail mix for a camping or hiking adventure, sporting activity, or urban experience, allow each family member to build their own. Set out ingredients, grouped by category, and give everyone a resealable bag, mason jar, or plastic container. Guide little ones so they don’t load up on all the sugary stuff and leave out the nutritional building blocks.

Trail mix is a power hitter when it comes to snack food and is not just for hikers. I pack a little trail mix to work every day for a nutritious energy boost for when I hit that afternoon slump. And, yes, I have Craisins in mine! What’s in your mix?

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Let’s Talk S’Mores


Today is National S’Mores Day! Who doesn’t love a good s’more?!

Some time ago, I ran across this infograph on s’mores by REI and I loved it so much I saved it to share here.

20160810 smores_infogram

For most folks, it’s just not camping without at least one evening campfire and s’mores, songs, skits and stories.

While the classic s’more consists of graham crackers, chocolate squares and toasted marshmallows, it’s okay to break from tradition and put your own spin on it.

We love to swap out the chocolate bars and graham crackers for hazelnut chocolate spread and shortbread cookies (yes, we use Girl Scout shortbread cookies). We’ve dubbed them gourmet s’mores.

My daughter loves to add a layer of peanut butter to hers or swap out the chocolate bars for a peanut butter cup. Do you have a favorite candy bar that would get all melty and gooey and compliment the marshmallow and graham crackers?

Adding a layer of sliced strawberries to your classic s’more is simply divine. Blueberries and raspberries are yummy, too.

Channel your inner, evil mad scientist and experiment once in a while. Besides it gives you an excuse to have s’more than one!

Now the question is: When do you pull out the s’more supplies?

I think a lot of people make the mistake of saving s’mores for the end of the campfire and I understand why. The campfire has died down and you are left with a nice bed of embers on which to roast your marshmallows, but now we’re sending everyone off to bed on a sugar high and expecting them to settle down and go to sleep. Uh, ya, not gonna happen.

I would recommend starting your campfire with s’mores. One way to do this is to ignite a small bed of coals on the outer edge of the fire for toasting your marshmallows. This provides your campers with their choice of glowing embers or full on flaming fireballs!

Once everyone is all sugared up, begin the skits and rowdy songs. You know the ones: The jump up, dance around, make crazy hand motions songs.

As the sugar wears off and the fire starts to die away, shift into the quieter, softer songs. On scouting campouts, we love to end our campfires with taps and vespers. Now everyone is ready to go brush their teeth and shuffle off to their tents for a good night’s sleep.

If it’s going to be a cold night, we might include a little protein snack near the end of the campfire. A little protein before bed can help you sleep warmer because your body stays warmer digesting the protein.

All this leads to a perfect campfire on a perfect campout and sends them home wanting to do s’more camping and cooking outside!

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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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The Devil is in the Eggs

deviled_eggs_02Deviled eggs are a classic appetizer for entertaining, but they also make good camp eats. They provide a solid hit of protein and can be served as an afternoon pick-me-up snack, a pre-dinner appetizer, a side dish at any meal, or as a no cook, no clean, cold breakfast item on a warm summer morning.

They even make a good bed-time snack on a cold night. Really! A sleeping warm technique is to eat a little protein before bed and that helps you sleep warmer because your body furnace has to work harder to digest the protein. So, have those sugar-rush s’mores early in the evening and send campers off to bed with a couple of deviled eggs in their bellies. They’ll sleep warmer.

With a little prep work at home, you can serve up a bunch of these babies in camp in a heartbeat!

At home, boil your eggs. When they are cool enough to handle (I chill them with ice), peel them, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks. Place your empty egg-white halves in a zip-loc bag or a plastic container (I prefer a plastic container to protect them). These will ride to camp in your cooler.

For a smooth and creamy filling, place the yolks in a metal strainer and use a wooden spoon to press them through the strainer.

I like to stir in mayonnaise, a little yellow mustard, salt, white pepper, and some paprika (I pack extra paprika for sprinkling on at camp). Load the filling into the corner of a zip-loc bag and this goes into your cooler for transport to camp. Home work done!

In camp, squeeze all the filling into a corner of the zip-loc bag, snip off the corner with a pair of scissors, and fill your egg-white halves like you’re frosting a cake. As my daughter would say, “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!”

For the adventurous folks, here are 5 twists for your deviled eggs. Combine the mashed egg yolks with the fillings of your choice.

Add your favorite guacamole (either store-bought or home-made).

For a smoky ranch flavor, add your favorite ranch dressing and a little bacon grease and/or bacon bits.

Add your favorite hummus, a little minced chipotle pepper, and lime juice.

How about some mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon and dill?

You could grate some pepper jack cheese with a microplane grater, and mix in some mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce for a spicy south of the border flavor.

Be adventurous and try some of these combinations or channel your inner evil mad scientist and make up your own, but if you do that you have to share your concoctions in the Comments! We’d love to see (and try) what you create!

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We’re Nutty for Nutty-Os

nutty_closeupNutty-Os are a holiday tradition in our family started by my sister many years ago. These crunchy, nutty, sweet and salty clusters are easy to make and quickly gobbled up (sometimes while they are still warm).

A few days ago, my friend CJ posted her version on her blog, CJ’s Kitchen, and it reminded me of ours. She toasts hers in a cast iron skillet and adds dried cranberries for a bit of tartness. She takes a little bag with her to work every day for an afternoon snack. It occurred to me that these would make a good camping snack or a no-cook breakfast item.

Today, inspired by CJ, I made a batch and added dried cranberries. We did a 50/50 mix of dried cranberries and dried blueberry cranberries. We love how the cranberries add a bit of tartness to the sweet and salty mix. Here is our recipe:


Cookie Sheet or Jelly Roll Pan


Big Bowl

Rubber Spatula for Stirring


½ cup brown sugar

½ cup dark corn syrup

¼ cup butter or margarine

½ teaspoon salt

6 cups cheerios or honey-nut cheerios (for a little more sweetness)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

½ cup almonds, slivered

1 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Prep Work

Heat oven to 325°F. Brush jelly roll pan with a little butter or margarine. Heat brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in 3 quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheerios and nuts until well coated. You could add the dried cranberries here or after it comes out of the oven. Spread mixture in pan. Bake 15 minutes. Add the cranberries here if you didn’t add them before you baked it and cool 10 minutes, but don’t just let it sit; keep turning it and moving it as it cools. After about 10 minutes, you can let stand about an hour until firm. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes 9 cups.

This would be a great snack mix for in camp or on the trail and would make a good no-cook breakfast item on a morning where you want to keep breakfast simple.

Categories: Recipes, Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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